James shows class with dominant display

New Zealand endurance rider Kirstie James underlined her class with a dominant display on the final night of the track national championships in Invercargill on Saturday.

The Southland rider, who finished third in the elite women’s individual pursuit earlier in the week, rode in the second team sprint side. She anchored the southerners to a team pursuit gold and then produced a standout display to win the 20km points race in a finale to the four-day championship at the Stadium Southland velodrome.

James, who took two laps on the field during the 20km, 80-lap race, received fantastic support from her Southland teammates, Nicole Shields and Rylee McMullan, who also took a lap and banked the silver medal, with Holly Edmondston (Mid-South Canterbury) in third place.

"It’s been an excellent day. I wasn’t sure how my legs would pull up after doing the team pursuit and team sprint, but to be honest my legs were so tired that I had to make smart decisions and that really worked in my favour," she said.

The elite men’s 30km points race final showcased Southland’s Corbin Strong in the rainbow jersey as the reigning world points race champion among a quality field.

Strong claimed the first two sprints before Aaron Gate began to take control of the race, with reigning Commonwealth Games points race champion Mark Stewart — the Scotsman riding for Southland — also prominent.

Gate ended up taking the title, adding to his individual pursuit crown from Friday, Stewart took silver and Strong bronze.

Gate produced the fastest time in history by a New Zealander for the quintessential 4000m individual pursuit with a time of 4min 8.761sec. It was the third-fastest time ever recorded in the world.

Gate was surprised to win.

"I didn’t think I was going to have the speed in the sprints to match Corbin and Campbell based on what happened last year, so I put on a bigger gear to try and get a lap on everyone and it went the other way.

‘‘I won a couple of the early sprints and got enough of a buffer to be able to chip away at it right until the end," Gate said.

Southland claimed both the women’s and men’s elite and under-19 4000m team pursuit titles, the women’s team’s impressive line-up including New Zealand representatives James and Shields, McMullan and junior world championship rider Emily Patterson.

"The first time we’d ridden as a team was this morning in the warm-up, but we came together and produced a really nice team pursuit ride," James said.


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