Cycling champs in city

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The Southland men's pursuit team in action last year. Photo: NINZ/Dianne Manson

OLYMPIC medallists, world champions and the future stars of New Zealand track cycling will take centre stage in Invercargill this week.

Invercargill hosts the Vantage Window and Doors elite and under-19 track national championships from today until Sunday, with 74 elite riders, 59 under-19 riders and five para-cyclists from throughout the country descending on the SIT Zero Fees Velodrome with their sole goal to go faster than their competitors.

Cycling Southland general manager Mark Hotton said the event was last held in Invercargill in 2014 and attracted large, vocal crowds, which were expected to return again for four days of intense fast-paced action.

“This is going to be a fantastic event for spectators. We’ll have members of the current New Zealand team that competed at the Olympics in Rio last year, development riders vying for national selection as well as junior world track champions such as Southlanders Bradly Knipe, Emma Cumming and Tom Sexton starting to emerge.

“They’ll all be looking ahead to the World Cups and world championships this year, but this is also where their campaign begins for selection for the Commonwealth Games in Australia next year,” Hotton said.

“Add to the mix an emerging crop of incredibly talented under-19 riders – such as Southland’s Corbin Strong – and it’s going to be a stunning four days of racing.”

The event will provide the first opportunity for Southlanders to see home-grown hero Eddie Dawkins racing since he was part of the team sprint that won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics.

“We love to see Southlanders racing and beating the best riders in the country and it will be the perfect opportunity to see Eddie and his team-mates (Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster) in action – only this time they’ll be racing against each other.”

Hotton said there had been a resurgence in interest in cycling since the Olympics last year and to capitalise on that, children aged 16 and under could go free to all sessions.

“We’ve had children turn up o our track start sessions wanting to ride like Eddie, so it’s great that they’ll get to see him in action,” he said.

Action starts with time trial finals and under-19 scratch races today, while the sprinters get under way tomorrow. Racing on Saturday gets intense with the finals of the Keirin, a race that uses a motorcycle to quickly pace riders up to more than 50kmh before they start racing, while on Sunday the team events, including the spectator-favourite Madison, round out a hectic event.

Session times are: Today (February 2) 10am and 6.30pm; tomorrow 10am and 6.30pm; Saturday 10am and 6.30pm; and Sunday 10am and 5pm. Tickets are $5 for adults for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning sessions, with children free. The evening sessions are $20 for adults, $15 for students and senior citizens, with children free. On Sunday each session is $10.

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