Olympic medallist Simon van Velthooven dug deep while Natasha Hansen broke the New Zealand record on the first night of finals at the Vantage national track cycling championships in Cambridge today.
Amid the while-hot competition for spots in the countdown to Rio, Jamie Nielsen defended her individual pursuit crown in impressive fashion while world champion hard man, Piet Bulling claimed his first elite individual pursuit title at the Avantidrome.
The evening was lit-up with some outstanding competition in the men's 1000m time trial, with five cyclists riding 1m01s and 18 riders under 1:05, with sprint coach Anthony Peden commenting that the level of competition was as deep as any national championship in the world.
Former junior world champion Cam Karwowski (Southland) grabbed the lead with a 1:01.974 but was edged by Auckland's Zac Williams in the next heat in 1:01.326.
The time for the 20-year-old Cycling New Zealand high performance rider stood until the final ride which pitted the London Olympic bronze medallist Van Velthooven against the world championship bronze medallist Matt Archibald.
Van Velthooven produced an inspired effort clocking 1:01.292 to claim the victory which he hopes will boost his selection chances going forward.
"I have had some good training since the Cambridge World Cup and I want to win some more titles this week. The legs felt good out there tonight and felt like I had a lot of free speed which is what we are after," van Velthooven said.
Southland's Natasha Hansen was the class of the field to win the women's 500m time trial in 34.209s to clip 15/100ths of a second off the national record set by Steph Mckenzie at last year's nationals. Katie Schofield finished second in 35.215 ahead of Mckenzie in 35.668.
"I've not done a really good 500 time for a few years but my training has been good, I was surprised by the time and really pleased," Hansen said."I have been improving all season. My previous best was at the Waikato Champs and I've taken 0.4 off that and hopefully it can keep trending that way."
Earlier Nielsen showed she is still the strongest endurance rider in the country, defending her 3000m individual pursuit title over fellow high performance teammate Rushlee Buchannan. This reversed their close placings in the time trial at the national road championships recently.
Nielson was too strong over the second half of the race to win in 3:34.785 from Buchanan with their teammate Lauren Ellis third after all the national squad produced personal best times in the morning qualifying.
"It is a good year to step up and try new things, put on a different gear and see how it felt and trust in the training we have done," Nielsen said. "We have not done a lot of IP work specifically but it shows the strength within the team there's a lot of competition, healthy competition which is great for New Zealand cycling in general."
The men's final was an outstanding battle between the world champion teammates Bulling and Dylan Kennett, who was defending his national title.
Kennett made a typically strong start before he was rounded up mid-race by Bulling who opened a 0.7s advantage. But Kennett dug deep to fight back with Bulling holding on to win by just 0.3s in 4:21.948.
"It means a lot to me, I really wanted that win today. The last time I won an IP was under-17 so it's been a few years. The IP is a strong man's race and something I've always wanted so I'm happy to come away with it," said Bulling.
Bulling said the form among the whole high performance endurance group is exceptionally strong.
"The competition is really healthy. You need competition within a programme. It keeps everyone honest and keeps all the athletes pushing for a spot which in the long term makes us all go faster."
In Para-Cycling action, Waikato BOP's Nicole Murray won the 500m C1-C5 time trial in 42.211 ahead of Northland's Fiona Southorn, with Byron Raubenheimer claiming the men's 1000m time trial in 1:10.808 over Auckland compatriots Nick Blincoe and Devon Rogers.
Para-Cycling world champions Emma Foy and Laura Fairweather took out the women's tandem 1000m time trial in 1:10.228 ahead of Amanda Cameron and Hannah Latta.
In under-19 action, Emma Cumming won the women's 500m time trial in 35.195s ahead of fellow Southlander and first-year junior Ellesse Andrews in a new national championship record.
The men's under-19 1000m time trial was won by Southland's Bradly Knipe in 1:02.965, also a new championship record, from Manawatu's Campbell Stewart and Southland's Tom Sexton.
Two world champions prevailed in the scratch races, with Auckland's Madeleine Park, part of the junior world champion team pursuit last year, winning the women's race while Stewart produced a classy finish to win the men's race.
Thursday's racing includes the elite sprint competition which will be finalised in the evening along with the men's scratch race and women's points race.
The evening programme starts with a world record attempt in the flying 200m by Wellington's Kate Horan, the former Paralympics athletes medallist, who holds the national track cycling record in the event.
Day 1, results:
Women's 3000m individual pursuit qualifying: Jaime Nielsen (Waikato BOP) 3:32.232, 1; Rushlee Buchannan (Waikato BOP) 3:34.446, 2; Kirstie James (Southland) 3:34.519, 3; Lauren Ellis (Mid South Canterbury) 3:34.939, 4. Gold medal ride: Nielsen 3:34.785, 1; Buchanan 3:37.395, 2. Bronze medal ride: Ellis 3:35.381, 3; James 3:40.850, 4.
Men 4000m individual pursuit qualifying: Dylan Kennett (Mid South Canterbury) 4:19.545, 1; Pieter Bulling (Southland) 4:20.846, 2; Luke Mudgway (East Coast North Island) 4:21.791, 3; Marc Ryan (Mid South Canterbury) 4:22.339, 4. Gold medal ride: Bulling 4:21.642, 1; Kennett 4:21.948, 2. Bronze medal ride: Ryan 4:26.736, 3; Mudgway 4:27.849, 4.
Women 500m time trial: Natasha Hansen (Southland) 34.209, 1 (NZ Record); Katie Schofield (Otago) 35.215, 2; Stephanie McKenzie (Southland) 35.669, 3.
Men 1000m time trial: Simon van Velthooven (East Coast North Island) 1:01.292, 1; Zac Williams (Auckland) 1:01.326, 2; Dylan Kennett (Mid South Canterbury) 1:01.570, 3.
Women 500m time trail: Emma Cumming (Southland) 35.197, 1 (Championship Record); Ellesse Andrews (Southland) 35.955, 2; Michaela Drumming (West Coast North Island) 37.272, 3.
Men 1000m time trial: Bradly Knipe (Southland) 1:02.965, 1 (Championship record); Campbell Stewart (WCNI) 1:04.088, 2; Tom Sexton (Southland) 1:05.039, 3.
Women 7.5km scratch: Madeleine Park (Auckland) 1, Michaela Drummond (WCNI) 2, Libby Arbuckle (WCNI) 3.
Men 10km scratch: Campbell Stewart (ECNI) 1, Tom Sexton (Southland) 2, Connor Brown (Auckland) 3.
Women C5 500m time trial: Nicole Murray (Waikato BOP) 42.211, 1; Fiona Southorn (Northland) 43.384, 2.
Men 1000m C1-C5 time trial: Byron Raubenheimer (Auckland) 1:10.808, 1; Nick Blincoe (Auckland) 1:14.207, 2; Devon Rogers (Auckland) 1:22.637, 3.
Women Tandem 1000m time trial: Emma Foy (Northland) Laura Thompson ()Southland) 1:10.228, 1; Amanda Cameron and Hannah Latta (Wellington) 1:12.454, 2.
Men Tandem 1000m: Mitchell Wilson and Regan Sheath (Waikato BOP) 1:10.287, 1.