BikeNZ riders are sprinting their way to the top with seven national records this week at the track cycling championships in Invercargill.
All seven records fell to sprinters and as a result the outstanding men's squad are expected to lead the way when the New Zealand team is announced tomorrow for next month's world championships in Belarus.
Following last night's world class men's keirin, the Auckland combination of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and ring-in Simon Van Velthooven clocked 44.445 to take the final over hosts Southland (Tom Beadle, Matt Archibald, Eddie Dawkins).
It completed an outstanding four days of quality sprinting, which Mitchell believes will set up the group for success at the world championships.
"Whoever is selected will be a real force at the championships," Mitchell said.
Mitchell, who turns 22 this month, enjoyed a superb week with a national record on the opening day and ending with a top first-wheel ride to set up Auckland for the team sprint win.
"It has been the best nationals that I have been part of. To come here in such good form from the world cup in Mexico and then leading on to the world championships hopefully, it's been a really good stepping stone."
Mitchell said the top form came down to hard work off the back of the London Olympics in the off-season.
"We had a huge block of training after the Olympics. A lot of teams go through the Olympic depression where they struggle for form but we have stepped it up to another level. May be that's a credit that we are a group of young guys and we all work together so well and are improving every day.
"We won at the world cup in Mexico. We'd love to go to the world championships and step it up another level. We've shown we are world class. Who ever goes to the world championships in the sprint group will be going there with the intention to win."
The other records this week went to Otago's Katie Schofield in the 250m time trial, Van Velthooven in the 1000m time trial, Archibald and then Webster in the sprint qualifying and it was finished tonight with Olympian Natasha Hansen beating her own record in the 200m sprint time trial and then teaming with Southland compatriot Stephanie McKenzie to break the record in the team sprint.
It was a fitting final effort for Hansen who had struggled for top form earlier in the week.
"On reflection I should have had a good break after the Olympics but we were unsure just what we had in front of us this year," Hansen said. "It has also been emotional for me with the first nationals here since the death of my best friend.
"I am really happy with my form tonight. Now I will have a good break as we don't have any competition now until later in the year and I can put in a really good base and build again through to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow."
Hosts Southland came from behind to pip Auckland in the women's 3000m team pursuit in 3:31.610, just 0.2 seconds ahead of the northerners who had led until the final two laps.
Mid South Canterbury won their first elite title in the men's 4000m team pursuit with Olympians Marc Ryan and Shane Archbold laying the platform as they overtook Southland in an impressive performance. Their line-up also included Andy van der Heyden and Waimate's Dylan Kennett, who was presented with the trophy as junior track rider of the year tonight.
Brilliant Auckland Olympian Aaron Gate was the standout performer in endurance racing, teaming up with good mate Myron Simpson to with the spectacular men's Madison over 30km to go with his victories in the individual pursuit, scratch race and points race to complete an emphatic championships.
In under-19 competition, Canterbury won the women's team sprint and Auckland took out the men's team sprint.
Day 4 results:
Women 3000m team pursuit qualifying: Southland 3:33.699, 1; Auckland 3:35.729, 2; West Coast North Island 3:36.605, 3; Otago 3:40.593, 4.
Final, gold medal: Southland (Sequoia Cooper, Laura Fairweather, Kylie Young) 3:31.610, 1; Auckland (Racquel Sheath, Georgia Williams, Georgina Wilson) 3:31.802, 2. Bronze medal: West Coast North island (Cassie Cameron, Gemma Dudley, Maxyna Cottam) 3:33.378, 3; Otago (Elyse Fraser, Kirstie James, Alysha Keith) 3:38.978, 4.
Men 4000m team pursuit qualifying: Mid South Canterbury 4:15.145, 2; Canterbury 4:18.764, 3; Canterbury U19 4:34.820, 4.
Final, gold medal: Mid South Canterbury (Shane Archbold, Andy van der Heyden, Dylan Kennett, Marc Ryan) 1, Southland 2 (overtaken). Bronze: Canterbury 1, 4:16.525, 3; Canterbury 2, 4:21.599, 4.
Women team sprint qualifying 500m: Southland 34.552, 1; Otago 35.403, 2; Canterbury 36.422, 3; Auckland 36.808, 4.
Final, gold medal: Southland (Stephanie McKenzie, Natasha Hansen) 34.284, 1 (NZ Record); Otago (Katie Schofield, Keith) 35.355, 2. Bronze medal: Canterbury (Liz Steel, Victoria Steel) 36.209, 3; Auckland (Henrietta Mitchell, Paige Paterson) 36.726, 4.
Men team sprint qualifying 750m: Auckland 44.112, 1; Southland 44.781, 2; Canterbury 47.938, 3; Auckland 2, 48.378, 4.
Final, gold medal: Auckland (Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster, Simon Van Velthooven) 44.445, 1; Southland (Tom Beadle, Matt Archibald, Eddie Dawkins) 44.610, 2. Bronze medal: Canterbury (Ben Stewart, Angus Lindsay, Hamish Schreurs) 48.144, 3; Auckland 2 (Regan Sheath, James Vercoe, Tony Wilkinson) 48.173, 4.
Men's Madison, 30km: Auckland (Aaron Gate, Myron Simpson) 30 points, 1; Southland (Pieter Bulling, Cameron Karwowski) 15, 2; Composite (Hayden McCormick, Jason Christie) 11, 3.