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Stepping up to the elite level is tough

Matiu KaihauMost of national and local coverage from 2012 Oceania Track Champs has focussed on the likes of the NZ riders and the falling record but for others like Matiu Kaihau, participating at Oceania’s was a tough assignment and at times very daunting having to step up to the elite men level.

Riding against seven world class athletes in the omnium, on an indoor  velodrome, is significantly harder than the competition he normally faces at Fielding on a Tuesday night. “I never had aspirations that I was going to win the omnium event but I was really seeking to benchmark myself against other riders and gauge where I’m at”, he said.  

During his first race (points) Matiu experienced a mechanical with his rear wheel in the very first lap and with no spare rear wheel he was left wondering whether he was going to get back into the race. He was lucky someone came to his assistance but his injection back into the race was inopportune and he was left trying to chase the bunch.  Commissaires eventually pulled him from the race having been lapped a few times by a fast moving peloton.

It was not an auspicious start for Matiu and he was left to do some serious soul searching.  He was questioning his rationale for wanting to go in the first place and also whether he was prepared to go on.  “I really thought I was embarrassing myself by the level of my performance”, he said. Solace came in the form of encouragement from the likes of Simon and Paul van Velthooven. Importantly, it was the attitude of other riders and commissaires that also gave him the confidence to continue on regardless of his shaky start.  In the individual pursuit, he’d never ridden 4km before, not even as a training ride.

Matiu & Byron Simpson Mike McRedmond, his coach, suggested a 5min IP was still a respectable achievement for a first one.  In fact he rode quicker and felt he had more in the tank to go faster.  “I was afraid I was going to blow if I went quicker so I paced myself”.  I was pleased with the consistency of my lap times, he added.

The highlight was the 15km scratch ride where he managed to break away at four to go but was rolled to the line by four other riders to take 5th place.  He took some sense of satisfaction by beating Wesley Gough and Myron Simpson, both NZ riders, to the line.  While he finished at the bottom of the omnium table he can still hold his head high and certainly use the experience as motivation to improve for track nationals in Feb 12.