ARMIDALE cyclist Mitch Bullen’s year – and career – just keeps getting better and better.
After representing Australia at the recent World Cup meet in Mexico and picking up bronze in the team sprint, Bullen was on Friday night crowned the country’s sprint king after upstaging his more fancied rivals to win the sprint event at the Australian track cycling championships in Sydney.
The 21-year old, who claimed the state title late last year, stunned London Olympian Matthew Glaetzer in straight heats to claim his maiden individual national title.
“I am over the moon,” Bullen said afterwards.
“I honestly can’t describe this feeling – this is probably the happiest day of my life.”
In the first heat, Bullen made his move over Glaetzer on the back straight, opening a lead of almost a bike length heading into the final bend.
A late surge from Glaetzer on the line saw him almost steal the win, however Bullen went up after the photo finish showed he had edged Glaetzer by mere millimetres.
A bold move from Bullen paid off in the second heat, with the 21-year-old diving under a fast-moving Glaetzer inside the final 200m to take the sprinter’s lane.
He then powered to cross the line ahead of the South Australian.
His elation was slightly delayed as commissaires reviewed the footage, but his move was given the all-clear to give him a 2-0 victory.
“Going into the race, I had a couple of plans in my head. I knew if I got a jump on him, everything might work out,” Bullen said.
“The door was open and I just had to take my chance.
“All the decisions are millisecond decisions and I was lucky to get under him into the sprinter’s lane first.
“I am just glad it paid off.”
Having been disqualified in the men’s sprint in the previous two championships, Bullen revealed he was “sweating on that decision a fair bit.”
“Since I came into the senior ranks, I have really struggled with getting the rules down pat, but this year I came here a lot more focused and relaxed,” he said.
It’s his second gold medal of the championships after teaming with Andrew Taylor and Peter Lewis to win the team sprint on Wednesday night in championship record time.
But despite the thrill of his two crowns, Bullen conceded he still had work to do to be consistently competitive with Australia’s sprinting heavyweights.
“I think I have a lot more work to do before I can be considered in the same ranks like Perkins, Sunderland and Glaetzer,” he noted.
“I just have to keep putting my best foot forward and hopefully get good results and hopefully that puts me in line for bigger and better things.”
At last year’s nationals he picked up silver in the team sprint and bronze in the keirin behind Glaetzer.
He finished fifth this year in the keirin on Saturday.