Sweet relief – that's what it felt like to win four individual pursuit national championships in a row for Conor Leahy.
The Western Australian continued his reign of dominance in the elite men’s individual pursuit (IP), outlasting a gallant performance from Queenslander James Moriarty in the gold medal final.
Leahy won gold with yet another sub-4:10 performance, stopping the clock at 4:09.916 to Moriarty’s 4:14.239.
FOUR-PEAT! 🥇🥇🥇🥇— SBS Sport (@SBSSportau) March 15, 2023
Western Australia's Conor Leahy has won his fourth national Individual Pursuit title in a row! 😱
Watch Day 1 of the Australian Track National Championships right now via @SBSOnDemand! 🚲🇦🇺#couchpeloton #TrackNats23
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“I’m really happy to go four in a row,” Leahy said.
“I put a bit of pressure on myself this year and it feels like a relief to get it done.
“But just really excited for everyone this week, I think it’s going to be exciting for all the races.”
The 23-year-old remains the only Australian in history to record a sub-4:10 time for the 4000m IP, although Moriarty went close to joining the club in qualifying, recording a 4:10.616 to top the session and send a scare to Leahy.
“I knew James and a few other boys would be around that mark but when you see it on the scoreboard, the time you’re planning to do before you ride, it’s always a bit surprising,” Leahy said.
“I did that last year and for James to do that this year is great.
“Really proud of him and good to see a whole range of us stepping up and getting really tight at the top.
“I knew had a lot of work to do to get over him and I really backed myself in my warm-up and just left it all on the track because I know what I can do – but it was definitely a surprise to not qualify first.”
Leahy’s relief was also spurred on by a suboptimal summer of cycling campaign on the road which naturally flowed into his subsequent preparation for TrackNats.
A preparation he labelled as “different”.
“In 2022, I came in with some good form off the end of the summer but this year I’ve just had a bit of a disrupted prep – I got COVID and things like that. I think for where I’m at right now it’s about right,” Leahy said.
“I’ve been focusing a lot on the team pursuit in trying to push my way into the Paris 2024 squad.
“There’s a lot of us going for those spots and it’s been a big focus of mine, but it was still good to snip under 4:10, and I know there’s a lot in the tank for the future.”
Leahy was almost more buoyed by the fast performances of his peers than his own at the end of the night, despite knowing those same men will be some of his biggest rivals for Olympics selection over the next 18 months.
“We all push each other, and we all want each other to go well and as I said, when I see those boys going fast it excites me,” Leahy said.
“I’m just so stoked for them because if they’re going fast, it means Australia is going fast and at the end of the day that’s what we all want.”
South Australian Oliver Bleddyn finished third.