Westley Gough and Peter Latham have attended world championships and Commonwealth and Olympics Games as part of the New Zealand team pursuit squad and they are not giving up on their dreams of riding in London later this year.
The pair – who were in the New Zealand team for the past two world championships, including the bronze medal team in 2010 – were arguably the most notable omissions from the four-strong squad of Sam Bewley, Jesse Sergent, Marc Ryan and Aaron Gate selected for the Cali round of the World Cup, which is considered the shadow team for the London Olympics.
Gough and Latham will get their chance to impress along with fellow men's endurance riders Cameron Karwowski, Myron Simpson and Jason Allen at the Beijing meet next weekend.
Latham rode for New Zealand at the Athens Games in 2004 and was a reserve in Beijing four years ago while on the comeback from a back injury.
"Most people would say there is six guys for four spots at the moment and a few other guys on the fringe too. It's definitely tight for spots – competition is healthy but everyone is fighting for a place over the next few months," he said.
Gough rode the qualifying rounds at the Beijing Olympics before making way for Hayden Roulston as the New Zealand team won the bronze medal ride-off against Australia.
The New Zealand Olympic Committee successfully lobbied the IOC to have an additional medal made for Gough at Beijing and, while it is kept in a safe place, he rarely gets it out to have a look at it.
The focus now is on giving himself a chance to add to the collection.
"It's just keep training hard and trying to post as good a times on the track as possible and just keep pushing for a spot in the fastest team," he said.
"It's just about making the most of your chances and trying to lay down personal best times when it matters."
Gough came into the New Zealand track cycling programme as it was taking off about five years ago. Funding from Sparc had flowed as the results came, to the point where the team had great depth backed by strong management, he said.
Latham first rode for New Zealand on the track in 2003 and had noticed a massive change in expectations since that time.
"I went to Athens and we got 10th. It was more of an achievement to qualify, as opposed to getting a result. The mentality changed over the next few years and obviously the medal in Beijing was huge. Now it's not just about a medal, it's a belief that we can win gold and that's pretty motivating," he said.
"Back then  it was a men's team pursuit and Sarah Ulmer, with about three staff. The dynamics change with the women's team pursuit, the sprinters – now we've got the chicks team sprinters, which is cool – that brings a lot more staff as well. The challenge for everybody is to adapt to that dynamic. The last few days has been a really relaxed atmosphere and we are all looking forward to going to Beijing. Everyone is laying down good times, if you enjoy what you are doing then usually you succeed."
Gough said Olympic success remained the highest honour in track cycling.
"It's once every four years so every nation builds up for it as hard as possible. To the public, maybe more so in New Zealand than in other countries, it's really special for the whole country. It's where you can get your name out there and if you can get a medal you are up there with only a few people who have achieved something like that."
The New Zealand team, which has been preparing at the Invercargill velodrome this week, flies out this weekend for the Beijing World Cup starting January 13.
Article courtesy of The Southland Times