Places are at stake for the Rio Olympics when mate takes on mate at the Vantage New Zealand Track Cycling Championships in Cambridge next week.
The four-day championships from 10-13 February at the Avantidrome will decide final selections for the UCI World Championships in London next month.
Riders selected for London have the opportunity to perform at the highest level on a fast track used for the 2012 Olympic Games to ensure they can be considered for nomination to Rio.
“It is an extremely important few days for all riders,” said Cycling New Zealand high performance director, Mark Elliott.
“The whole squad has been training exceptionally well and there is real competition for places looking ultimately to Rio. The big stepping stone will be the world championships, and performances next week will be the final chance for riders to press their claims.
“The selectors will have the most challenging task that we have ever faced to select this World Championship team. There’s a lot riding on performances at the national championships as a result.”
This season 34 riders have been selected for UCI World Cup competitions in Cali, Cambridge and Hong Kong, around double the number of spots likely for the World Championships and Olympics.
The main competition is likely to come in the endurance area with 13 riders used in the men and 12 in the women so far this season.
While five men – Piet Bulling, Regan Gough, Alex Frame, Marc Ryan and Dylan Kennett – sport the rainbow stripes as team pursuit world champions, they all face strong competition for places.
“That is what is healthy about our programme. There’s real competition for all spots and even a world champion is not guaranteed of making this year’s squad. That has brought out the best in them every day at training and I am sure it will be evident during the national championships.”
The chase for Rio is not limited to the able-bodied riders, with the nation’s best Para-Cyclists also in action as they make their push for selection to Rio, with the national championships carrying UCI qualifying points.
The championships run over four days from next Wednesday with morning sessions from 10am and evening sessions from 6pm.
Day one includes individual pursuit with qualifying in the morning and finals in the evening along with time trials for Para-Cyclists in the morning and able-bodied in the evening.
Thursday highlights the individual sprint for men and women in both sessions along with women’s points race and men’s scratch race in the evening.
Friday features keirin for men and women with finals decided in the evening, Para-Cycling individual pursuits in the morning with the evening programme including women’s scratch and men’s points races.
The final day on Saturday comprises team pursuit and team sprint with qualifying in the morning and finals in the evening, Para-Cycling individual pursuit finals in the morning, tandem individual pursuit qualifying and finals.
CAPTION: The World Champion team pursuit squad of (from left) Alex Frame, Dylan Kennett, Marc Ryan, Piet Bulling and Regan Gough will be looking for strong form at next week’s Vantage New Zealand Championships.
Photo courtesy Guy Swarbrick