The rainbow jerseys of reigning world champions Michael Hepburn (QLD), Matthew Glaetzer (SA) and Kelsey Robson (WA) lit up Sydney's Dunc Gray Velodrome, with a host of records broken on the opening night of the 2013 Subaru Cycling Australia Track National Championships.
Hepburn and Robson successfully defended their individual pursuit national crowns, while Glaetzer’s South Australian team claimed a gallant silver in the team sprint behind the barnstorming New South Wales trio of Mitch Bullen, Andrew Taylor and Jamie Green.
New South Wales claimed a further two gold medals through Kaarle McCulloch in the women’s 500m time trial and Jack Edwards in the under 19 men’s individual pursuit, with Elissa Wundersitz adding to West Australia’s tally after claiming the under 19 women’s scratch race crown.
Despite having not ridden an individual pursuit since claiming the world title last April, reigning world champion Michael Hepburn (QLD) successfully defended his national title with a brilliant performance in the men’s 4000m individual pursuit final.
In a display of pursuiting perfection, Hepburn established a solid lead of almost half a second over team pursuit junior world champion Alex Morgan (VIC) Morgan after the first kilometre.
Increasing the pace with each lap, Hepburn extending the margin to two seconds at the half way point, and to five seconds with three laps remaining.
With Morgan in the Queenslander’s sights on the straight in the final few laps, Hepburn powered home to record a scintillating time of 4mins 15.280secs, one of the fastest times recorded in history.
“I was a little bit surprised, I knew my condition was good and I have been training on the road and I was worried about my lack of track preparation,” said Hepburn, who claimed his first individual senior world last April, following a lightening fast final kilometre which saw him upstage world record holder Jack Bobridge.
“But I am really happy with my time, to get a 4.15 off all of my road preparation.
“I proved today I could come out and do a descent pursuit of good road preparation.
Hepburn also revealed feeling the pressure of unveiling the rainbow jersey for the first time, particularly against a younger opponent of the caliber of Morgan, a 2012 Junior Track World Championships individual pursuit medalist who was making his debut in the senior ranks.
“I had lots to lose in the final where as young Alex had everything to gain.,” Hepburn explained. “And I find that is the scary thing when you come up against a young opponent like that who have nothing to lose, they give it everything they’ve got.
“I really wanted to show my strength in the event and I am glad I could do that,” Hepburn added.
Morgan crossed the line in 4mins 22.907secs to take the silver.
In an all South Australian bronze medal final, London Olympian Alex Edmondson (4:27.330) was far too good for his team mate Miles Scotson (4:32.603).
In the men’s team sprint, the NSW trio of Bullen, Taylor and Green set an Australian Championship record of 44.626 earlier in the evening’s qualifying round.
In the final, Green exploded from the gate to give New South Wales a sizeable .254 seconds lead after the first lap, with Taylor putting more time into his opponents on the second lap to extend the advantage to a third of a second.
Reigning team sprint world champion Glaetzer followed Jason Niblett and James Glasspool for South Australia, with the London Olympian riding a scorching 13.259 over the last lap to almost steal the win.
However Glaetzer and South Australia fell agonisingly short, with Bullen holding on for New South Wales to post a winning time of 44.505secs which eclipsed their hours old Championship record, just ahead of South Australia (44.518).
“South Australia have beaten us in the last two years so today was a bit of revenge,” said Bullen. “But this year, we swapped the team format around, we have young Jamie Green in as a starter and he’s really put us up there.
“He’s probably the reason we have the gold, but we all pulled together beautifully and rode a much better race than the heat and we broke the Australian Championships, so we can’t do much better than that.
“This win is the whole team’s first national title, so it’s just fantastic to get the green and gold jersey.
“I know we have all been chasing it for a number of years so it’s brilliant,” Bullen added.
In the bronze medal final, ACT put the pedal down to improve on their qualifying time to defeat Victoria.
The trio of Daniel Ellis, Nathan Hart and Alex Bird recorded 45.072 to defeat Jaron Gardiner, Ben Abels and Jacob Schmid (47.080) in the bronze medal final.
In the women’s 500m time trial, London Olympian Kaarle McCulloch (NSW) claimed her fourth consecutive national title in the event.
McCulloch, who collected silver in the afternoon session (with Fernando-Prieska) in the afternoon’s women’s team sprint final, covered the two laps in 34.624secs to take the gold.
“I was hoping to go a little bit faster tonight but after coming back from Mexico I’m pretty happy with that time considering the differences in the tracks,” said McCulloch, who returned from last week’s Mexico Track World Cup with team sprint gold and Anna Meares’ Australian flying 200m record.
“I have found it a bit difficult to back up from Mexico because it was a short turn around, but I am happy with my form.
“I have big expectations in the sprint and keiren and I am looking forward to trying out a few things I’ve been practicing in training,” added McCulloch.
Canberra’s Catherine Culvenor who recorded a personal best time of 35.392secs to take silver
South Australia’s Rikki Belder (35.770), who partnered Steph Morton to win gold in the women’s team sprint final, claimed the bronze medal.
In a thrilling under 19 men’s individual pursuit final, little separated Jack Edwards (NSW) and Zac Shaw (VIC) for entirety of the 3000m distance.
Edwards, the reigning omnium champion, bolted from the blocks to lead fastest qualifier Shaw by half a second after the first two laps, with Shaw settling to reduce the deficit to three tenths of a second advantage at the half way point.
Shaw, who had a busy afternoon session in which he claimed the time trial crown after qualifying fastest in the pursuit, continued the fight back to trail by just two hundredths of a second at the bell lap.
However Edwards held off his rival over the final lap, improving on his qualifying time to take the gold in a time of 3mins 20.961secs, just ahead of Shaw in 3mins 21.216secs.
“After qualifying, I was a bit worried because I qualified one second behind Zac Shaw,” said Edwards, “But I knew Zac would be backing up from the kilo to race me tonight so I was confident I would have a good chance to get the gold and come away with the win.
“It was pretty close, it was lap for lap, and I thought I was down halfway through the race and I was getting a bit worried so I just put my head down and went for it,” he added.
South Australia’s Callum Scotson (3:23.326) won the bronze medal over West Australia’s Sam Welsford (3:24.497).
In the under 19 women’s 2000m individual pursuit, reigning world champion Kelsey Robson (WA) defended her title with a superb display in the final against Macey Stewart (TAS).
In the afternoon qualifying session, Stewart upstaged her rival by breaking Robsons’ Allcomers and Australian Championships record with a time of 2mins 24.750secs.
It was a different story in the final, with Robson getting the better of her world championship team-mate with a calculated ride.
Robson was relentless over the 12 laps, gradually increasing her lead to ride away with the gold in a time of 2mins 26.288secs, safely ahead of Stewart who finished with 2mins 27.176secs.
“I was really nervous heading into the final because my plan was to qualify first,” said Robson, who claimed the junior world title in New Zealand last August. “And once your plan goes out the window, you get the head wobbles a little bit, so I had to go into the final with a lot of self confidence and believing in the training that I’d done.
“I felt a heap of pressure, and I had a big question on myself after having so much success last year about being able to back it up.
“I questioned that after the qualifying but after that performance I am really happy,” added Robson.
In the women’s under 19 7.5km scratch race, a stunning attack by West Australia’s Elissa Wundersitz two laps out from the finish saw her claim a memorable victory.
Wundersitz, along with Tasmania’s Macey Stewart and Lauren Perry and Josie Talbot (NSW), maintained the pace for much of the race, with Wundersitz launching herself over the pack with two laps to go and riding away the victor by the length of the straight over Stewart and Talbot.
The Championships will be shown live on SBS TWO from 7:30pm on Friday 1 February and Saturday 2 February.