Five Cycling Southland members have been named a 16-strong team to contest the junior world track cycling championships to be held in New Zealand from 22-26 August.
Sophie Williamson returns from last year's squad looking to improve on her bronze medal in the women's points race and she is joined by fellow Wakatipu-Central Otago club member Liam Aitcheson along with Invercargill's Tom Beadle, Jeremy Presbury and Kate Dunlevey.
The team will take on the world’s best under-19 cyclists from more than 20 countries in the championships at the Invercargill Velodrome on 22-26 August.
Six of the team return from last year’s successful group that won a record 10 medals at the world championships in Moscow. Four of those medal winning riders are back in team to compete at Invercargill comprising Waimate’s Dylan Kennett, a double medallist, Wanganui’s Cassie Cameron, Auckland’s Paige Patterson and Williamson.
BikeNZ High Performance Director Mark Elliott said the championships could prove a watershed event for the sport in this country.
“Our junior programme has been developing well over the past four years and to stage a world championship in this country is a rare and invaluable opportunity,” he said.
“It is an opportunity for us to enter a full line-up of riders which we just can’t afford to do year after year in Europe.
“It is a tremendous chance for this group to put their hands up to be part of our programme looking ahead to the 2016 Olympics and beyond.
“I hope all the other kids around the country who ride bikes will be able to get to Invercargill to catch the bug and to see what is possible.
“And above all I hope that the cycling fraternity throughout the country and the sporting fans in the South Island understand that this is a very special chance to see tomorrow’s cycling stars today.”
The BikeNZ head coach Ross Machejefski believes they have selected a strong team for the championships.
“There’s a good number back from last year and a number who tasted some success, so that will be important,” he said.
“We had an excellent Oceania Championships in Invercargill where these riders really performed well. There’s a lot of hard work to go but they are all fizzing about the chance to compete in a world championships right here on their home turf.
“The velodrome here at Invercargill is like a second home to them all which will be a significant advantage for sure.”
There are several training camps planned while Machejefski is hopeful of potential funding to take the squad to the USA for training and racing during the New Zealand winter.
The team is:
Female endurance: Cassie Cameron (Wanganui), Alysha Keith (Dunedin), Racquel Sheath (Auckland), Sophie Williamson (Alexandra), Georgina Wilson (North Harbour).
Female sprint: Kate Dunlevey (Invercargill), Paige Patterson (Auckland), Victoria Steel (Christchurch).
Male endurance: Liam Aitcheson (Alexandra), Tom Beadle (Invercargill), Tayla Harrison (Christchurch), Dylan Kennett (Waimate), Hayden McCormick (Te Awamutu), Hamish Schreurs (Christchurch).
Men’s sprint: Jeremy Presbury (Invercargill), Zach Williams (Auckland).
Staff: Ross Machejefski (head coach), Mark Lucas (female endurance coach), John Rastrick (sprint coach), John Green (team manager), Lynnette Murphy (track manager).