Photo credit: Tom Clarke
After six months without racing due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the cancellation and postponement of events across Australia and the world, Cycling Australia’s ‘Virtual Track National Challenge’ will provide Australia’s best cyclists with a chance to get back on track.
Across October 2-3-4, Sydney’s Dunc Gray Velodrome, the Anna Meares Velodrome in Brisbane, Adelaide Superdrome, Western Australia’s SpeedDome plus the Darwin and Alice Springs Velodrome will host the Challenge.
The inaugural Challenge will see riders in the J15, J17, J19, Para or Elite categories contest the Flying 200M, Individual Pursuit, Time Trial Team Sprint and Team Pursuit at their primary Indoor Velodrome in their home state or territory.
In Adelaide, Australian Cycling Team Podium Potential Academy (PPA) athletes will line up across all events.
Launched in November 2018, the PPA – supported and partly funded by Commonwealth Games Australia – focuses on the long term development of athletes orientated around success at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and through to the 2024 Olympic Games and beyond.
The sprint events will feature 2020 World Championship bronze medallist Tom Cornish, plus Kristina Clonan who continues her transition from the endurance to the sprinting ranks.
“The virtual nationals is an opportunity to come together and compete in what has been probably one of the toughest years, both racing but also mentally,” said Clonan, 22. The 2018 and 2019 Madison national champion is now developing her track cycling craft as a sprinter in the Podium Potential Academy.
“COVID lockdowns and the uncertainty has given me an opportunity to find my feet in the sprint by having a huge block on home soil. But training amongst so much uncertainty makes it difficult to formulate goals, so virtual nationals has been the goal so I’m excited to lay down some times and see where I’m at.”
The event also provides a chance for cyclists to reconnect with friends and their local cycling club.
“I’m excited to reunite with everyone after such a tough year and the inability to see my interstate friends and competitors,” added Clonan. “Virtual nationals, in a way, gives the nation a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel, and an (almost) return to normality.
“I’m excited to see how Australia can come together, and bring the spirit of racing hard and supporting one another, even if we aren’t actually together.”
For Cornish, it will be his first team sprint since claiming a surprise bronze (with Nathan Hart and Matthew Richardson) while on debut at the 2020 Track World Championships in March.
“It’s been so long since we have raced, we’re using this to get a bit of a gauge of how we are tracking through training into December this year for nationals,” said Cornish, 20, the 2018 junior time trial world champion.
“We’re all very keen to get out there and record some times.”
In the endurance events, Sophie Edwards will get back to racing via the team pursuit where she will line up with a South Australian outfit.
“I’m really looking forward to racing a TP and seeing where I’m at after not having the season that I expected,” said Edwards, 20, a Junior Track World Championship medallist in 2018 who also raced both the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race with Team UniSA-Australia earlier in 2020.
“It’s also been good to train with the SASI team again and pass on some of the knowledge I’ve learnt through my time at CA.
“But you can train hard, and do as much testing as you want, but it’s never truly like lining up at a race and giving it your all.
Results will be published live online at each velodrome where the state and territory winners will be determined and announced. A nationalised live timing app will centralise the results as they happen throughout the country.
The times recorded at each velodrome across Australia will be standardised using an approach developed by staff at the Australian Cycling Team. Staff from the Team have evaluated each of the velodromes based on past performances. They will take into account the barometric pressure and temperatures in each velodrome in the calculation of results.
The event will also provide a key preparation opportunity for teams and riders as they build towards the 2020 Track National Championships in Brisbane from 16-20 December.
Tasmania’s Silverdome and Melbourne’s DISC Velodrome will host events later in the month.
Western Australia: SpeedDome; October 2-3
New South Wales & ACT: Dunc Gray Velodrome; October 3-4
Queensland: Anna Meares Velodrome; October 3-4
South Australia: Superdrome; October 3-4
Northern Territory: Darwin and Alice Springs Velodromes; October 3
Tasmania: Silverdome; October 11
Victoria: DISC; Date TBC (postponed due to COVID restrictions)