• Jordan Kerby won the Oceania Track Championships IP. (Getty)Source: Getty
It’s a strange concept really: the Oceania track championships. Not exactly what you’d call a showstopper in the world of sport. There it is, nestled in the middle of a week towards the end of November – four days of racing, from Monday to Thursday.
Rob Arnold

Cycling Central
24 Nov 2017 - 8:32 AM  UPDATED 24 Nov 2017 - 12:05 PM

In 2017, it was contested on the excellent facility in Cambridge, New Zealand. A fast velodrome (that also houses the Cycling NZ headquarters) on land that cost the federation the sum total of one dollar. It was essentially a donation from a nearby private school.

Considerably more money was required to build the track and building began in 2012 and by 2014, the $28.5 million facility was ready to go.

A royal opening with none other than their Royal Highnesses Prince William and Princess Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – and, of course, Sarah Ulmer one of the queens of cycling from Oceania – took place in April 2014.

There has been plenty of racing and training on the track since. The Avantidrome, as it’s been known since completion, has become a valuable space for the local community and New Zealand cycling alike. There is a velodrome inside but the building is used for much more… but that’s another story.

This week, 162 riders (a tally includes 50 juniors) filled the entry list for the championships that… well, is essentially a competition between two countries: New Zealand and Australia. No other nations were represented.

You could be lulled into thinking that it was little more than a club race. But world-class times were posted and numerous world champions were in the thick of the action.

Still, Cycling Australia’s NJTS – the ‘National Junior Track Series’ – attracts significantly larger fields of competitors: 195 for round one in Melbourne, 216 in Sydney… and there will be more juniors racing in Queensland this weekend during round three.

Forgetting the curiosities of what the Oceania track championships actually represents, however, let’s consider the conquests of one of the stars of the show this week.

Jordan Kerby is one of the riders who got to race in a rainbow jersey. The individual pursuit world champion was part of CA’s HPU contingent that was sent to Cambridge for national duties. He would contest four events: day one, team pursuit; day two, individual pursuit; day three, omnium; day four, Madison.

He took two gold medals at the start of the championships, and both in impressive times. (He then finished seventh and fifth in the subsequent events.)

There may not have been a lot of competition but Australia’s high-performance unit made the most of the chance to race in national colours (or rainbow jerseys) and Kerby was key among the protagonists.

“The teams pursuit is still the main focus for me,” he said at the start of day three.

The Australian ‘gold’ team (so named because there were only five teams competing, three from Australia – gold, ‘blue’ and ‘green’ – and two from NZ) posted the fastest time in qualifying.

Kerby, Leigh Howard, Nick Yallouris and Rohan Wight finished in 3min 57.776sec. Sub-four minutes in a team pursuit is reason to be cheerful. Actually, it’s quite an accomplishment. And in the final, with Wight replaced by Kelland O’Brien, the Aussies went even faster: 3min 52.421sec.

“We really nailed that final against New Zealand on Monday night,” said Kerby. “The boys were stoked with that time; we didn’t think we’d go that quick…. [but] it ended up being the eighth quickest time ever recorded.”

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When he won his world title in Hong Kong earlier this year, Kerby set the third fastest time in history, 4min 12.172sec. Only Jack Bobridge (4min 10.534sec) and Chris Boardman (4min 11.114sec) had raced the individual 4,000m pursuit faster: the Australian did so while in remarkable form and with ideal conditions, the Brit achieved his time in the now-banned ‘Superman’ position.

In Cambridge, however, he continued to demonstrate that, at the age of 25, he is coming of age in the elite ranks. Twice a world champion in the juniors, Kerby is now making a name for himself as an elite track rider.

“I actually hadn’t been under four minutes until Monday,” he said, “and then we did a 3:57 and a 3:52. So it’s a good start to the season.”

The team pursuit is the main focus for an obvious reason; it’s on the Olympic program – and, for Cycling Australia’s HPU, this is what matters. But the Oceania provided riders who are specialising in Olympic disciplines the chance to test themselves in a range of other events.

In a rare opportunity to race in the rainbow jersey, Kerby qualified fastest in the IP (4min 17.553sec) and then went even faster. In the final on Tuesday night, he posted 4min 13.529sec. He caught the silver medallist, Jared Gray, and set a remarkable time.

It may have been a championships that not many people were racing (or paying attention to) but Kerby’s conquests on the opening two nights remind us that there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about the work that’s being done by the HPU.

Kerby joined the fold in August. He’s put himself in the running for a place on the Olympic team for Tokyo. He’s teaming up with an interesting mix of youth and experience to go faster than he’s ever been before in the team pursuit. And he’s maintaining his commitment to the individual pursuit.

All along he’s tweaking his position to try and gain the best balance of aerodynamics and power efficiency and changing his training structure to include more gym work.

The Oceania championships was effectively a local dalliance ahead of what promises to be an interesting few years ahead on the international stage for Jordan Kerby.

Read more about Jordan Kerby at RIDE Cycling Review.