Cycling New Zealand has named an 18-strong team to contest the UCI Track World Championships in London next month with five Southlanders featuring in the mix.
Selectors have opted for the on-form riders for the world championships that begin in the London Olympic velodrome in just over two weeks time.
They have also taken the opportunity to blood some younger riders, but have left the selection door widely open for all riders looking ahead to the Rio Olympics.
“Our ultimate goal is to have the fastest riders selected to compete in Rio in August,” said Cycling New Zealand High Performance Director, Mark Elliott.
“It is the same philosophy for these world championships. We have selected on form for the world championships.
“That said while we will be expecting to perform strongly in London, it also presents a gilt-edged opportunity to test our systems, tactics and ideas and trial new riders against the best in the world.
“We can’t do this in Rio, so London is also a testing ground at the highest level as well.”
The tightest selection has been for the men’s endurance squad where the world champion quartet of Piet Bulling, Alex Frame, Dylan Kennett and Marc Ryan has earned selection along with 2009 world omnium champion Aaron Gate.
Two young riders have been selected for the first time. Southland’s Nick Kergozou has been selected as an option for the omnium while former junior world Madison champion, Luke Mudgway has impressed throughout the season. The experience of a team pursuit world championship campaign will be invaluable for their futures.
Missing out is Hawkes Bay’s Regan Gough on health grounds and double 2008 Olympic medallist Hayden Roulston.
“Hayden has trained well and is producing the numbers and the door is far from closed. He has made big gains over this training phase, but with the quality of the rest of the team we could not make a selection call with Hayden for this event. However the next phase through to Rio will create the opportunities for Hayden to build on the gains he has made through early 2016.
“We expect Regan to be back to full health and a real contender for Rio after being a key part of our world championship winning squad last year.”
Southland’s Matt Archibald, the world championship kilo medallist last year, has won the back-up role to the team sprint behind Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins after a close battle with Simon van Velthooven at the championships.
“The competition within the sprint team is immense and Matt has earned that right for our needs at present. Again Simon has shown real improvement and will have every opportunity to push for a place in the Rio team to defend his keirin medal.”
Waikato’s Racquel Sheath earned her place back in the team after winning both bunch races titles at the nationals. Sheath will join the women’s team pursuit with the experienced Lauren Ellis earning the nod to compete in the omnium.
Junior world championship medallist Olivia Podmore (Canterbury) has gained selection to join the in-form Natasha Hansen in the women’s sprint.
“The firm focus for Natasha at the world championships will be the individual sprint and keirin, which gives us the opportunity look forward with our team sprint combination and give Olivia her chance at the highest level.”
Elliott said Cycling New Zealand is in the rare position to be on target to qualify a full team on the track for Rio, which has also figured in their selection plans.
“We will be going to London to perform well. With qualification for all Olympic qualification spots on target, the world championships also give us the opportunity to try some new people and new combinations as we look towards Rio and beyond.”
The team resume training tomorrow and will leave for London this weekend.
The team is:
Men, endurance: Piet Bulling (Southland), Alex Frame Canterbury), Aaron Gate(Auckland), Dylan Kennett (South Canterbury), Nick Kergozou (Southland), Luke Mudgway (Manawatu), Marc Ryan (South Canterbury).
Sprint: Matt Archibald (Southland), Eddie Dawkins (Southland), Ethan Mitchell (Auckland), Sam Webster (Auckland).
Women, endurance: Rushlee Buchanan (Waikato), Lauren Ellis (Mid Canterbury), Jaime Nielsen (Waikato), Racquel Sheath (Waikato), Georgia Williams (Auckland).
Sprint: Natasha Hansen (Southland), Olivia Podmore (Canterbury).
CAPTION: Lauren Ellis leads the women’s team pursuit during the national championships at the weekend.
Image courtesy Dianne Manson.