Anna Meares Velodrome fitting host for TrackNATS battle
28 February 2017
TRACK CYCLING: Brisbane’s Anna Meares Velodrome will provide the perfect setting for a battle of supremacy between Australia’s female sprinters at the 2017 Cycling Australia Track National Championships beginning on March 2.
The 2017 TrackNats will be the first major event held at the venue, named after arguably the world's best ever female track sprinter and 36-time national champion Meares, with a superb field set to shine in the team sprint, sprint, keirin and time trial from Wednesday.
Leading the charge on the track is the experienced duo of 2016 Olympian and reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallist Stephanie Morton (SA), 26, and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist and three-time world champion Kaarle McCulloch (NSW), 29.
Reigning time trial national champion Caitlin Ward (VIC), 23, plus triple team sprint gold medallist Rikki Belder (SA), 23, are primed for strong showing in Brisbane, while Courtney Field (VIC), 19, will be eager to continue strong early season form which saw her claim World Cup keirin bronze while on her elite national team debut in November.
Following in the wheels of Morton, who forged her career as a Tandem Pilot winning gold at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, is Maddie Janssen (VIC), 22, who claimed bronze at the Rio Paralympics, and Holly Takos (SA), 21, who represented Australia at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Both have switched their sole focus to the single bike, with Janssen aiming for the podium in 2017 after finishing fourth in the sprint behind Meares, McCulloch and Morton in 2016. Takos will be full of confidence after breaking through for her first major win with keirin gold at the Oceania Championships in Melbourne last in December.
Eight-time national champion Morton believes the strong depth in the Australian women’s sprinting ranks will bring out the best in all riders next week.
“The state institutes have really stepped up the last couple years which makes the domestic scene a lot more competitive,” said Morton, who became the first Australian woman to win three-consecutive keirin national titles (2013-14-15).
“It's great having so much depth in the women’s field and it benefits us all.
“With more high-quality racing on home soil, it's only going to better for us as we hit the international scene.”
Morton is seeking her second sprint title after claiming her maiden crown in 2013 and a record fifth-straight team sprint title with South Australia.
With the Nationals signifying the start of a new Olympic-cycle for most athletes, and the Commonwealth Games just 13 months away, the South Australian has her sights set on more than just the green and gold jersey.
“Like every nationals I’ll be hoping to ride fast times and translate those times in medals, and Brisbane is a fast track so I think we are in for one of the fastest nationals ever,” said Morton, who like the rest of the field, knows that Australian team selection for April’s World Championships is also on the line.
“I’ll be using these nationals to kick off the next Olympic cycle with some really tough racing and to start the journey toward the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.
McCulloch, 29, is an eleven-time national champion which leads the way for the most green and gold jerseys of any active rider at the Championships.
Since 2008, McCulloch has found the podium in all eight women’s sprint competitions she has contested for a tally of two gold, five silver and one bronze. McCulloch also gained an edge over the field by claiming the Oceania sprint crown last December.
“For me as I have got older I realise that nothing can trump experience,” said McCulloch, who has claimed the sprint triple crown (sprint, time trial and keirin) twice in her career (2008 and 2010)
“I drew a lot of inspiration from the Australian Open tennis final this year as all the men’s and women’s finalists were in their mid 30’s. And if you look at the likes of Anna Meares and Sir Chris Hoy they got better with age and that is my intention also.
“I am constantly improving every day in my training because of my training history and that just adds confidence to my experience.”
In what will be just her second elite nationals, nineteen-year-old Field is predicting the unpredictable when racing starts on March 2.
“What can I say except you never know what is going to happen”, said Field who won keirin bronze while on her elite National team debut at the 2016/17 Track World Cup in Scotland last November.
Field opened her season with strong form by claiming sprint silver behind McCulloch at December’s Oceania Championships, upsetting Morton - who was returning to competition after her Olympic campaign - in the semi finals.
“The field is so strong. There is a group of girls that are so close to each other's times it is so hard to know who is going to do well, it's quite stressful actually,” added Field.
“So many bonuses from having so many strong riders, keeps you on your toes, I can't wait for my second Elite National Championships.”
Thursday’s opening day of competition will feature the team sprint, with the sprint to be held across day two and three. The keirin will be held on the fourth and final day of competition on Sunday. The full schedule can be viewed HERE.
Rio Olympians Matthew Glaetzer (SA), Sam Welsford (WA), Nathan Hart (ACT), Patrick Constable (SA), Amy Cure (TAS), Georgia Baker (TAS) and Steph Morton (SA) will all be in action, in addition to reigning world champions Alex Porter (SA) and Rebecca Wiasak (ACT) and six-time world champion Cam Meyer (WA). Tickets
Day 1 - Thursday 2 March - The Championships open with a bang with the team events! Eight finals decided on the opening night of competition including the team pursuit and team sprint events. Afternoon session from 2pm, Night session from 630pm
Day 2 - Friday 3 March - Seven national champions will be crowned on day two with the opening rounds of the sprint competition for both men and women will get the crowd roaring. The purity of the individual pursuit will be on display with four finals on the program. Morning session from 11am, Night session from 600pm
Day 3 - Saturday 4 March - Penultimate day of competition will see nine finals decided across the two sessions with the final rounds of the sprint set to explode! The elite men's time trial, women's points race and men's scratch will also be final not to be missed! Morning session from 11am, Night session from 600pm
Day 4 - Sunday 5 March - The Championships will conclude with eight finals, with the fast and the furious of the keirin set to set the track alight. The women's scratch race, under 19 Madison and men's points race will ensure all fans will be glued to their to seats right until the end! Morning session from 10am, Day session from 200pm.