News: Aussie Hepburn wins national title with a 4.17

Queensland’s Michael Hepburn won gold in a thrilling elite men’s individual pursuit final against South Australian Rohan Dennis at the 2012 Subaru Cycling Australia Track National Championships at Adelaide’s Super-Drome.

The pair, who were half of Australia’s 2011 world champion pursuit team, staged a nail-biting duel that saw Dennis (Jayco-AIS) almost a second up on Hepburn at the three quarter mark of the 16 lap race. But the GreenEDGE rider held his nerve and stuck to his schedule wiping out the deficit and surging clear to win in a time of 4:17.481. That was almost three seconds faster than Dennis whose 4:20.004 earned him the silver medal.

“It’s very important to me – the individual pursuit is an event that I’ve always had a strong passion (for) and I have big ambitions in this discipline,” an ecstatic Hepburn said after donning the Australian champion’s jersey. “This and the team pursuit are my two big goals and it’s really nice to get the crown tonight.”

“After this morning’s ride I was fairly confident and even throughout the final I was fairly confident, ” said Hepburn. “I’ve seen Rohan ride a fair bit and I know how he rides. He tends to go out quite quick, whereas I’m the opposite, I like to race the person over the last two kilometres.

“Full credit to Rohan, he’s just had a great result in the Tour Down Under, he’s only had a few days to recover, ” added Hepburn.

In 2009, Hepburn set a world record in the under 19 3000m pursuit on the same track and later the same year won the junior world title. Graduating to the senior ranks in 2010, Hepburn claimed back to back team pursuit world titles but also has his sights set on individual glory.

“If you look at the current team pursuit squad, obviously Jack is the standout in the individual pursuit and Rohan has done some really good rides as well, ” Hepburn explained. “(But) I’m starting to do some good rides and it’s an event we all take very seriously – it’s still a world championship event.” Hepburn added.

Dennis, who finished second in 2011 to Bobridge, was making no excuses after the race. “I felt it – in saying that, he’s a top-class rider,” said Dennis. “I wouldn’t take the win away from him just because I did the Tour Down Under as he was always going to be a hard competitor. “He’s not easy to beat anyway, even when I am on form, all credit to him.

“I was probably putting too high expectations on myself, but sometimes that works,” Dennis added.  Queensland’s Mitchell Mulhern took the bronze medal (4:23.857) over South Australian Alexander Edmondson (4:31.229).

Earlier in the evening session on day one Sydney’s Kaarle McCulloch, 24, claimed her third straight 500m time trial crown just hours after her silver medal ride in the team sprint. McCulloch showed no signs of fatigue, covering the first 250 metres in 19.447 and completing the two laps in 34.244. “I am pretty happy with that as this event is still quite important to me, it’s the event I won my first Australian title in as a junior, and I always really want to do well in it,” said McCulloch of the time trial which is no longer in the Olympic Games program.

“I thought I could have done a little bit better, but I think that was wishful thinking. I think the heat got to me a little bit today, but my personal best is 34.208 and I did a .244 then, so I can’t be too unhappy.  “I am looking forward to the sprint now, and as all my training is geared to the team sprint, I don’t feel any pressure in the sprint.

“Hopefully I can go out and ride a good time, get through to the final and give Anna a good run for her money,” McCulloch said. Canberra’s Catherine Culvenor (35.616) took the bronze medal, while South Australia’s Rikki Belder (35.283), who teamed with Anna Meares to win gold in the team sprint, placed third.

In the final event of the night South Australia successfully defended their team sprint title when Nathan Corrigan, James Glasspool and Matthew Glaetzer defeated the New South Wales trio of Mitch Bullen, Andrew Taylor and Peter Lewis. Corrigan out the home team narrowly in front after the first of three laps but Andrew Taylor blitzed the second lap to give New South Wales a lead of two hundredths of second with 250m to go.

A parochial crowd propelled Glaetzer over the final lap for a finishing time of 45.087 seconds, 0.020 faster than their rivals who clocked 45.315. Victorians Shane Perkins, Jason Niblett and Jaron Gardiner (45.984) claimed the bronze medal ahead of WA’s Scott Sunderland, Jonathan Bathe and Aaron Cooper (46.191).