Olympic medallist Simon Van Velthooven is the top ranked rider in tomorrow’s opening event of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Belarus.
Van Velthooven will start last in the kilometre time trial tomorrow morning (NZ time) at the impressive velodrome in Minsk.
The BikeNZ team is adapting to the freezing conditions, with snow falling since their arrival and temperatures of minus 10C deg.
Manawatu’s Van Velthooven and Southland’s Eddie Dawkins are the only Kiwis on the track tomorrow in the kilo.
Van Velthooven, who was third in this event last year in Melbourne, has earned the top ranking with last year’s champion Stefan Nimke (Germany) and second placed Michael D’Almeida (France) not competing in Minsk.
BikeNZ High Performance Director Mark Elliott said it was an honour for the London medallist.
“We think he is probably the first New Zealander to start as the top ranked rider since Harry Kent in the mid-70s,” Elliott said.
He said the team had settled well and were looking forward to the competition.
“They know they are all in great shape. Their training in the lead up to nationals and the preparation following that has been going to track,” Elliott said. “They have all been putting out strong performances and almost everyone in the team has been knocking off PBs in the last two weeks.”
The large complex at Minsk is expected to put out fast times.
“The boys are saying the curves and the steepness of the track is quite aggressive and the straights quite short so they are expecting it to be quite fast.
“They are all riding good times although how fast is hard to tell because the training sessions have seen massive numbers on the track, so it has been hard to get an accurate gauge on it. They just have to go out there and do it tomorrow.”
While two-time world champion Nimke is missing, the riders placed third to eighth at the world championships in Melbourne last year are all competing including the 2010 kilo world champion Teun Mulder (NED), who finished in the joint bronze medal with Van Velthooven in the keirin at London.
Dawkins, who was fifth in this event in 2010, is eighth off but the team believe he could well set the standard for the top ranked riders to chase.
New Zealand will contest the team sprint on the second day of competition, with Auckland’s Aaron Gate to compete in the men’s omnium on day three and four, with the keirin on day three. The men’s sprint competition is on the final two days of the championships.