11 Feb 2016

Van Velthooven off to strong start in Cambridge

3:38 pm on 11 February 2016

The competition was hot on the opening night of finals at the National Track Cycling Championships in Cambridge as riders eye this year's Olympics.

Simon van Velthooven in action at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

New Zealand cyclist Simon van Velthooven Photo: Guy Swarbrick

Natasha Hansen broke the New Zealand record in the 500 metre time trial, while Olympic medalist Simon van Velthooven won the men's 100 time trial.

Jamie Nielsen defended her individual pursuit crown in impressive fashion while world champion Piet Bulling claimed his first elite individual pursuit title.

The evening was lit up with some stiff competition in the men's 1000m time trial.

Former junior world champion Cam Karwowski 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 clocked 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 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."

Nielsen showed she's still the strongest endurance rider in the country, defending her 3000m individual pursuit title over fellow high performance teammate Rushlee Buchannan.

"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 tight 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.

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