With a weather-eye on the Rio Olympics, New Zealand cycling coaches are taking the opportunity to trial some key combinations at the Vantage New Zealand Track Cycling Championships in Cambridge starting on Wednesday.
The four-day championships from 10-13 February at the Avantidrome will decide final selections for the UCI World Championships in London next month.
While there will be some fierce competition for individuals, two of their key combinations will combine in national colours on the final day.
The 2014 world champion men’s team sprint trio and the experienced women’s team pursuit quartet will compete as national teams in their respective events on the final day of competition.
National officials have given permission for the two teams to ride in national colours rather than their provincial teams. The men’s sprint will comprise Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins with the women’s team pursuit lining up with Georgia Williams, Lauren Ellis, Jaime Nielsen and Rushlee Buchanan.
“It’s an important opportunity for a key hit-out in race conditions ahead of the world championships,” said Cycling New Zealand head coach Dayle Cheatley.
“In both of these cases they have had limited competition together and there are things that we want to trial in race conditions. While they are together every day it’s not something we can simulate in training.”
Cheatley says he is expects white-hot competition this week, with riders knowing that places for the world championships and ultimately the Rio Olympics are on the line.
“The competition is the strongest that it’s been for four years, which it should be in Olympic year,” Cheatley said.
“The competition will be particularly fierce in the individual pursuit, the men’s kilo time trial and men’s sprint which will be exciting.”
However Cheatley also has his eyes already cast towards the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“The under-19 competition will be something I am particularly interested in. We are developing some outstanding talent coming through the ranks in all disciplines.
“This is their opportunity to put up their hands for junior world championship selection but more importantly out of this will come some key riders to form the nucleus of our team for Tokyo.”
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 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.
Photo courtesy Guy Swarbrick
Details including tickets: www.tracknationals.co.nz