Victoria dominate nationals team pursuit

Leigh Howard (R) and Kelland O’Brien have helped Victoria to win the n men’s team pursuit.A powerful Victorian quartet showcasing the depth of n men’s team pursuiting have comfortably defended their national title.

World record holders Leigh Howard and Kelland O’Brien combined with young gun Luke Plapp and starter Godfrey Slattery to dominate the final against SA on Saturday night.

After qualifying second-fastest on Thursday behind SA, Victoria rode three minutes 56.588 seconds to easily beat the South ns’ 4:01.422 at Melbourne Arena.

With the fierce -Great Britain rivalry in the men’s team pursuit always simmering, national coach Tim Decker noted Victoria’s time was quicker than the 3:59 from the British at the latest World Cup round in London.

“To win the national title and run 3:56 for a state team, I’m over the moon,” Howard said.

On Thursday, Plapp won the emerging athlete category at the n Sports Commission Awards, one of three honours for n cycling.

“Kelland and I have done some pretty good things in the last 12 months but you talk about Luke, he’s an amazing talent,” Howard said.

“And Godfrey – the job of a starter, it’s a lot more difficult than people give it credit. We have a pretty special state team.”

Alex Porter (SA) and Sam Welsford (WA), who combined with Howard and O’Brien to set the world record of 3:49.804 at the April Commonwealth Games, also rode at the nationals.

The next big goal for the team pursuiters will be the February world titles in Poland, where they will go head-to-head again with the British.

Queensland caught SA in the women’s team pursuit final, while the NSW Institute of Sport won the bronze medal.

Sprint ace Kaarle McCulloch, who bypassed the London World Cup round and is in a heavy training block instead, led NSW to their first women’s team sprint championship in seven years.

McCulloch combined with Sophie Knox to qualify fastest on Thursday and then teamed with Selina Ho on Saturday night to beat Victoria in the final.

Two teenagers won the prestigious Austral wheelrace handicap finals, also held on Saturday night.

n junior keirin champion Sam Gallagher, 17, took out the men’s race off a 90m mark.

Stephanie Corset, the daughter of 2010 n road race champion Ruth Corset, won the women’s Austral.

The 16-year-old rode off a 165m handicap.

Kristina Clonan and Maeve Plouffe combined to win the women’s n madison championship with 47 points, while Macey Stewart and Josie Talbot were three behind in second.

The n championships are split this summer, with several events to be held in Brisbane in February.

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