The journey began early on Monday morning at Palmerston North Airport, from which we travelled to Christchurch and then onto our final destination Invercargill which would be our home for the next week. The whole WCNI group was staying at the Birchwood Manor Motel.
On Monday once at the motel we got settled into our rooms, I was staying in a room with my dad. We then built up our bikes and got ready for our first ride on the indoor velodrome of the week. This is always an exciting part of cycling as the indoor boards are so much faster than the likes of the Feilding concrete velodrome that we did all our training on!
On Tuesday, after a good training session in the morning we were straight into the racing! My first event of the week was the 500m time trial, this event requires a good start and the strength to carry on your top speed over the full 2 laps. This was not my strongest event as I am not built for the short events, but it was still good to be in the atmosphere of it all. I finished this event with a personal best so I was happy even though I was nowhere near a podium position.
The racing then carried on, on the Wednesday however I had no races on this day so I watched my fellow WCNI u17 competitor’s race as hard as they could in the 2km individual pursuit as Campbell Stewart claimed the gold medal.
On Thursday morning, my racing for the week carried on as I competed in the U17 Sprint Qualifying this was once again a short and sharp race consisting of sprinting as hard as you can to post your fastest time for 200m. I again posted a personal best time but it was not fast enough to compete with my much larger competitors. However I quickly put this behind me as my next race was the 5km Scratch Race heats which I had to get in the first 5 of my heat to get into the Final which was on that night. This race was one of my favourites of the week and went completely to plan as I picked a good wheel with 2 laps to go and was able to roll over the line in 2nd place to cement my spot in the final. After this race it was straight back to the motel for a cold bath and a good lunch to prepare for the Finals that night.
As I rolled up to the start line of the final I was completely in the zone and ready to go hard the whole 7.5km and try to come out of it with a medal however, everything didn’t quite go to plan. I was feeling good all through the race as I was rolling through with the bunch easily and with 2 laps to go I was about 5 wheels back from the front of the race, the pace then quickly increased and the sprint was on! Going into the last corner a rider veered out of the sprinters line so I took my chance and dived for the gap which would put me into 4th place on the track but just as I had tried to pass this rider he came down into the sprinters line again and I was forced onto the blue, at this point in time we were at full pace which would have been around 60km/h so as soon as I hit the blue my wheel slipped out and my race was over. A bonus being I wasn’t the only one who came down in the process as about 5 others crashed over the top of me. So there I was 40metres away from the finish line but with a DNF on the result sheet, only thinking what it could have been. There was to be some pain felt after this though as the burns all down my arms and legs started to sting. But after about half an hour with the nurses and my arms and leg being all wrapped up I was sent home to get some sleep so I could race in the points race heats the next day.
On Friday morning I was a bit stiff but that’s all part of it. I went to the velodrome knowing I had one job to do and that was to get to the final. I was determined to reach the final as I wanted to show people that I don’t give up over a little tumble. After a bit of warm-up to make sure my legs went around properly I was straight into the heats with the knowledge that only 8 people from a heat of 13 could get through to the final, so my goal was to get points on the board. This was a 30 lap race with 3 sprints and points up for each sprint. At the start of the race I was feeling the pain of the day before but this didn’t stop me trying to get some points. Going into the last sprint I still had no points so I knew I had to pull off something special to get into the final. I hit the front with 2 laps to go and saw a guy come flying around the outside of me and I knew that this was my only chance of getting some points. I sprinted my legs off to get onto his wheel and stuck on it right to the end. This proved crucial as I ended up with a 4th in the final sprint which meant I gained 1 point so I was put into 6th overall in the heat. This meant I was in the final! I had achieved my goal. It was then back to the motel again for a cold bath and some lunch to prepare for another final!
Friday Night was one of the hardest races of my life, The points race final which consisted of 40 laps with a sprint on laps 10,20,30 and 40. As I competed with 16 of the best u17 in the country to try and even hang on the back was hard enough! I still rode as hard as I could and stayed out of any trouble or crashes. The pace was constantly high with everyone wanting to attack and try to get some points. I guess you could say I was slightly sore from the last night but other than that nothing was holding me back I just didn’t have the legs that some of the others had. I’m glad to say that I was still with the bunch at the finish and I even led Campbell out for the final sprint! This was a sacrifice I was willing to make as I was never going to get close to winning. Once again it was back to the motel for some valuable sleep.
On Saturday morning it was all the teams qualifying events. First up for me was the Team Sprint, as I am not a great sprinter I was in the B team for this and I was rider number 2 which meant I had to go as hard as I could for the first lap to keep on rider number 1’s wheel and then do my lap as hard as I could to put the third rider in the best possible position to finish it off. My team consisting of myself, Fergus Allan, and Carne Groube came 9th overall in the qualifying for this event so we did not get into the finals. My next qualifying event was the 3km Team Pursuit, for this event I was in the A team consisting of Myself, Carne Groube, Campbell Stewart and Josh Kendall. Our team had been training for this moment for the past 5 weeks so we were ready to go all out. We started out on a schedule of 17.5 second laps but this varied a bit as we got slower and faster depending who was on the front but in the end we qualified 1st in front of the Southland team by 2 seconds. Our whole team was the back to the motel in preparation to try and get gold that night and also go for the record of 3.27.015.
As we lined up as a team for the final that night we were all pumped. This was our time to shine. We started off hard and got in front of the Southland team early only for them to come back at us and going into the last 2 laps we were pretty much a dead heat. But then as I pulled off for my last lead, our machine in the name of Campbell Stewart was unleashed and our team ended up winning by 2.5 seconds with a time of 3.29.331. A major goal for our whole team was accomplished and we were on a high. The medal presentation was awesome knowing that we had done it for not only ourselves but all of our supporters and parents. So there we were, National Champions! Such an awesome feeling. Not much sleep was had that night as we went to Burger King and ruined the healthy diet most of us had been on so we could be completely fit for this long week of racing. We then got together with most of the other competitors and had some fun. Finally getting to bed at about 3 o’clock the next morning, only to be abruptly awoken at 5.30 as our plane was leaving at 6.30. This brought to an end what was an awesome week of racing and a very successful one also. As this was only my first year in the u17 grade next year I will be going with higher expectations and hopefully luck will be on my side a bit more.