New Zealand cycling appears to be "on track" looking ahead to the 2012 Olympics.
With the elite men's and women's track squads breaking almost every New Zealand record, and coming within a wingbeat of a couple of world records at the ILT Velodrome in Invercargill during November's Oceania championships, hopes that something special will be achieved in London appear to be well-founded.
After a road season affected by illness and injury Hayden Roulston made a bid to return to the elite track programme for the first time since the 2008 Olympics.
It was a move which ended in frustration for both Roulston and BikeNZ, with the former not able to force the hand of national coach Tim Carswell and the latter disappointed when Roulston opted to withdraw from a camp early when it became obvious he was not going to be selected in New Zealand's "A" pursuit squad.
Commonwealth Games representative Aaron Gate appears to be the big winner, joining established riders Jesse Sergent, Marc Ryan and Sam Bewley in the black train for the California round of the World Cup which marked the end of the calendar year.
Sergent had an impressive year in his first full season on the World Tour riding for the Radioshack team, claiming three wins and silver in the individual pursuit at the world championships in the Netherlands.
Shane Archbold also impressed, winning silver in the omnium, a feat matched by Alison Shanks in the women's pursuit, but the men's pursuit were disappointed not to win a medal when they finished fourth behind Olympic champions Great Britain in the ride off for bronze.
In BMX, Marc Willers was the standout rider at the world championships but a mistake saw him relegated to the bronze medal. He must be an Olympic medal contender after winning the London test event.
Sarah Walker was also probably the strongest rider in the women's competition but after giving up the first corner had to settle for silver. She was the overall Supercross World Cup champion.
Rosara Joseph, who finished ninth at the Beijing Olympics, made her comeback to mountain biking after injury and time away after winning a Rhodes Scholarship. She signed with top pro team Rabobank.
Sixteen-year-old Anton Cooper proved himself to be the most exciting thing in New Zealand mountain biking with two World Cup wins and a silver at under 19 level at the world championships.
However, an age restriction by the UCI has ruled out any chance Cooper had of representing New Zealand at London.
On the road, Linda Villumsen won a third consecutive world time trial medal with a silver at the world road championships in Copenhagen.
Julian Dean became the second New Zealander, after Chris Jenner in 2001, to be part of a team time trial stage win on the Tour de France when he rode strongly over the first 15km to help Garmin Cervelo onto the top of the podium.
PureBlack racing, the brainchild of former Olympic and America's Cup sailor Carl Williams, had an impressive debut season racing in the United States but a lack of sponsorship looks to have curtailed a campaign in Europe next season.
Roulston's bid for a fifth Tour of Southland victory ended with a kidney infection on the morning of the race's longest stage, with young Trek Livestrong development rider Josh Atkins riding with a maturity which belied his years to claim the victory.
In fact, the future of New Zealand cycling looks assured with BikeNZ investing in a six-month European campaign for it's men's under 23 development squad which saw Archbold and Gate both produce breakthrough seasons.
James Oram claimed silver in the under-23 time trial at the world road championships.
The New Zealand team at the world junior track championships in Moscow claimed a record 10 medals, four silver and six bronze, with Invercargill-based rider Steph McKenzie contributing three medals.
The 2012 junior world championships will be staged in Invercargill.
Article courtesy of The Southland Times