The Grassroots Trust Waikato Bay of Plenty Performance Hub sprinters went into the Oceania Championships confident in their form, but even they were surprised to find themselves on the podium in Adelaide. 

Sam Dakin, Jackson Ogle and Callum Saunders exceeded all expectations, claiming the bronze medal in the elite men’s team sprint. They found themselves in illustrious company, sharing the dais with the Kiwi Olympic silver medallist combination of Eddie Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster, and Commonwealth Games bronze medallists Patrick Constable, Nathan Hart and Jacob Schmid of Australia.

Dakin said receiving their medals alongside some of the best sprinters in the world was pretty emotional for the trio who rarely train specifically for the team sprint event.

“It was the first Oceania Medal for all of us at elite level. Our coach had put us through a massive strength block of training from March through to August so it was awesome to see the hard work pay off. To have Kiwis on the top of the podium made it just that much more special with the national anthem playing as well.”

Saunders agreed. “It’s always super humbling lining up alongside, let alone sharing a podium with each of those guys. We’re so lucky to come from a country, and continent that is so competitive on the world stage. It means we get the chance to pit ourselves against some of the best on a regular basis.”

Winning their first elite Oceania medal is the trio’s first step towards grasping an exciting opportunity to race at the Track World Cup to be held in Cambridge from 18-20 January 2019.

As well as fielding a New Zealand team, Cycling New Zealand has entered two trade teams into the competition to give its development riders a taste of elite international competition.

The Cambridge round is the fifth of six Track World Cups scheduled for the 2018/19 season. The Track World Cups are held in cities all over the world and provide an opportunity for nations to pick up valuable qualifying points for the World Championships and Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Needless to say, the three boys are buoyed by the opportunity to race an international meet on their home track in front of family and friends.

“It’s a huge opportunity. I’ve never raced a World Cup before, so the prospect of making my debut, in front of a home crowd is a real driver in terms of motivation,” said Saunders.

Riding in a World Cup is Sam, Jackson and Callum’s opportunity to show New Zealand selectors they deserve a spot in the New Zealand high performance squad, something which all three riders have their sights firmly set on. It’s also a marker of just how far they’ve come in the space of three years since Cambridge first hosted a World Cup.

Dakin and Saunders will both be hoping that things are a little different this time around, albeit for slightly different reasons. While Sam volunteered at the World Cup, helping to greet teams at the airport and paint lines on the track with fellow New Zealand rider Jordan Castle, Callum will just be happy if he makes it in one piece. He spent the 2015 version of the event watching “with one arm in a sling, and the other in a cast” after a nasty encounter with a car while riding out on the road.

The boys will ride for a spot in the trade teams at a trial at the Avantidrome in Cambridge in December. The Track World Cup is raced over six sessions beginning Friday 18 January and ending Sunday 20 January. Tickets to the event are available via Ticketek.

Photo: Sam Dakin, Callum Saunders and Jackson Ogle back at their home track in Cambridge with their Oceania medals (Credit: Cycling New Zealand)