New Zealand’s track cyclists will take significant pedal strokes towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with three major outings in November.
Cycling New Zealand will mix world champions with new blood in their team to take on Australia in Cambridge for the Oceania Championships on 20-23 November, while two sprint-focussed squads will compete in the opening two UCI World Cup competitions in Europe earlier in the month.
The initial focus is on February’s UCI World Championships in the Netherlands before heading across the Tasman for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
While the sport faces a massive six months on the track, Cycling New Zealand is taking a longer term focus in blooding some new talent, with some of their key riders missing for a range of reasons.
“It’s nice to have your best available all the time, but with some riders not available it also presents an important opportunity to develop our depth as we look ahead to Tokyo and beyond,” said Cycling New Zealand CEO Andrew Matheson.
“We are under no illusions that we did not perform to expectations at Rio but at the same time we are not jumping at short term patch solutions.
“We have had some outstanding results on the global stage at junior level for the past few years and this presents an opportunity to give some of this talent some invaluable international experience.
“That said these remain important events and we are not taking them lightly. We expect the strongest possible Australian team to head to the Avantidrome in Cambridge for the Oceania Championships, which provide very important qualifying points for international competition.
“And it will give an early indicator looking towards World Championships and to the Gold Coast. So it is an exciting and challenging time for us.”
The World Champion men’s team sprint will lead the way for the team at the Oceania Championships and also the World Cup competitions in Poland and Manchester.
Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins will return from competing at the London Six-Day competition while Sam Webster is back after his first year of racing in the prestigious Japan Keirin league.
Natasha Hansen, a top six qualifier in sprints at the world championship, will lead the women’s sprint group.
The men’s endurance squad, who won the Silver Medal in the team pursuit at the 2017 world championships earlier this year, is largely intact with Nick Kergozou, Dylan Kennett and Regan Gough. Kennett is working his way back to 100 percent fitness while Gough has just returned from a European season on the road with An Post-Chain Reaction team in Europe.
Missing is the team hard man in recent years, Piet Bulling, who is taking time away from the sport. He will be sorely missed but this opens up opportunities, especially for the likes of four-time junior world champion Campbell Stewart and fellow junior world medallists Tom Sexton, Jared Gray and Hugo Jones.
The women’s endurance squad has three of its four riders back from the team that won bronze at the world championships in Michaela Drummond, Racquel Sheath and Rushlee Buchanan, who has returned from her road stint with UnitedHealthcare in the USA.
Missing is Jaime Nielsen, who suffered some health issues following her remarkable One-Hour record ride, while Rio Olympian Lauren Ellis is expecting the birth of her first child in November.
That offers opportunities for the likes of Bryony Botha, Elyse Fraser and Kirstie James to join the team pursuit combination.
Ticketing information for the Oceania Championships at the Avantidrome in Cambridge on 20-23 November can be found at www.cyclingnewzealand.nz.
The New Zealand team for the UCI World Cup in Poland on 3-5 November and Manchester on 10-12 November is:
Sprint, Male: Bradly Knipe (Southland), Eddie Dawkins (Southland), Ethan Mitchell (Auckland), Jordan Castle (Manawatu), Zac Williams (Auckland). Female: Emma Cumming (Southland), Natasha Hansen (Southland), Olivia Podmore (Canterbury).
Note: Endurance rider Jessie Hodges (Waikato) will compete in Poland while Campbell Stewart (Manawatu) and Tom Sexton (Southland) will ride in Manchester.
The team for the Oceania Championships is:
Sprint: Emma Cumming (Southland), Natasha Hansen (Southland), Olivia Podmore (Canterbury). Endurance: Michaela Drummond (Manawatu), Rushlee Buchanan (Waikato), Bryony Botha (Auckland), Elyse Fraser (Canterbury), Kirstie James (Southland), Racquel Sheath (Waikato).
Sprint: Britney Greene (Canterbury), Jessie Banks (Mid Canterbury), Nicole Marshall (Southland), Shaane Fulton (Tasman), Sophie-Leigh Bloxham (Horowhenua/Southland).
Endurance: Ally Wollaston (Auckland), Annamarie Lipp (Canterbury), Emily Paterson (Southland), Eva Parkinson (Waikato), Helena Rikiti (Southland), Jenna Merrick (Auckland), McKenzie Milne (Waikato), Sami Donnelly (Canterbury), Sammi Ogle (Canterbury).
Sprint: Ethan Mitchell, Eddie Dawkins (Southland), Sam Webster (Auckland), Williams. (Also Jordan Castle (Manawatu) riding for West Coast North Island, Callum Saunders – Tasman, Bradly Knipe – Southland).
Endurance: Regan Gough (Hawkes Bay), Jared Gray (Waikato), Hugo Jones (Canterbury), Nick Kergozou (Southland), Dylan Kennett (South Canterbury), Tom Sexton (Southland), Campbell Stewart.
Sprint: Angus Claasen (Manawatu), Conor Shearing (Southland), Patrick Clancy (Waikato), Thomas Garbett (Manawatu -Team Sprint only).
Endurance: Bailey O’Donnell (Mid Canterbury), Felix Donnelly (Canterbury), Finn Fisher-Black (Tasman), Griffyn Spencer (Canterbury), Jared Pidcock (Canterbury), Jarred Treymane (Waikato), Kiaan Watts (Waikato), Lachlan Robertson (Waikato), Liam Taylor (Canterbury).
Caption: Nick Kergozou in action at the 2016 World Cup