New Zealand’s track cycling team are confident they are in their best possible shape for the all-important UCI World Championships that begin near Paris on Thursday (NZ time).
Head coach Dayle Cheatley says his team has settled well and are ideally prepared ahead of the five-day event in the stunning new velodrome at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines on the outskirts of Paris.
Cheatley says it now comes down to performing to potential as the team look to continue their outstanding rise in the sport.
“The hard work has been done. The next few days is about keeping the body alert and active but also resting up. The team is in good nick. It is up to them to execute on the day,” Cheatley said.
Over the first four decades of the world championships New Zealand cyclists secured 11 medals. In the last six years under the new direction of the cycling programme, the Kiwis have won 24 medals, with their best the five medals secured last year in Cali and at Melbourne in 2012.
The team has enjoyed the new facility and produced some outstanding efforts in training this week.
“We’ve settled quite well with no injuries or illnesses and we hope we can keep it that way for another couple of days. We have settled in quite nicely to the track, the hotel and the environment.”
The track is wider than in Cambridge which Cheatley believes will help the sprinters record slick times.
The endurance men’s squad is the youngest in memory with four of the squad 21 years or younger, which Cheatley feels will provide a real boost.
“It is a very young team but that said, the expectation is no different than any team we bring to the world championships. We expect them to perform and they are more than capable of doing so.
“While they are young, they have the ability to produce a very good result if they put it all together and everyone does their job.
“The young riders have brought a fresh approach. They have brought a hunger to the team and an energy that has been well received, not just within the endurance squad but across the entire team including staff.”
Cheatley is expecting a continuation of the improving form from the women’s endurance squad who only returned to the international programme late last year with encouraging results. They will be expecting a qualifying result and set themselves for the chance of medals on the second day.
The evening programme on Thursday focuses on the team sprint where the New Zealand’s have their world championship jerseys on the line.
The five-strong men’s sprint squad have all set fastest times in training, with team coaches to meet today to finalise their line-ups for the competition, while the women’s sprint pairing of Katie Schofield and Stephanie McKenzie have also achieved best times in training.
The opening day of competition features the two major Olympic team events – the team pursuit qualifying and team sprint.
The team pursuit have qualifying in the afternoon with the top eight progressing to the second day’s programme with two further races.
The men’s and women’s sprint combinations face a tough test with the fastest four nations progressing to the medal race with only an hour between qualifying and the medal round.
The event schedule is:
Day 1 (Thursday NZ time): Team pursuit (men/women) qualifying; team sprint (men/women) qualifying and finals; women’s points race.
Day 2 (Friday): Team pursuit (men/women) first round and finals; men keirin, women 500m time trial; men scratch race.
Day 3 (Saturday): Women sprint, men omnium (scratch, pursuit, elimination), women individual pursuit qualifying and finals, men 1000m time trial, men points race.
Day 4 (Sunday): Men sprint qualifying, two rounds; women omnium (scratch, pursuit, elimination), men omnium (time trial, flying lap, points), men individual pursuit qualifying and finals, women scratch race, women sprint semis and finals.
Day 5 (Monday): Women omnium (time trial, flying lap, points), men sprint quarters, semis and finals, women keirin, men madison.
CAPTION: Southland’s Pieter Bulling, on the front of the team pursuit at last year’s world championships in Cali, is one of the group of rising young stars set for opening day action in Paris.
Photo courtesy: Guy Swarbrick.
NOTE: The championships will be broadcast live on Sky Sport.