Olympic spots for Rio 2016 could be the reward for the best young kiwi cyclists competing in next week’s UCI Juniors Track World Championships in Invercargill.
Following hard on success in the London Olympics, BikeNZ will be looking to bolster its ranks as they begin the road to Rio.
The 16-strong New Zealand team will be firstly looking for success at the world championships, taking on 154 riders under 19 years from 24 countries starting on Wednesday at the Invercargill Velodrome.
It is just the second time that the world championships have been staged in New Zealand, following Wanganui in 1983.
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.”
Many of the teams have already arrived in Invercargill and are looking forward to a track rated one of the fastest sea-level velodromes in the world. They include a 17-strong squad from last year’s hosts Russia and also Australia who boast four defending world champions.
The New Zealand team includes six of the team returning from last year’s successful group that won a record 10 medals in Moscow. Four of those medal winning riders will compete at Invercargill comprising Waimate’s Dylan Kennett, a double medallist, Wanganui’s Cassie Cameron, Auckland’s Paige Patterson and Alexandra’s Sophie Williamson.
All four won bronze medals with Kennett winning his pair in the omnium and team pursuit, Patterson in the team sprint, Williamson in the points race and Cameron in the scratch race.
The competition runs from Wednesday to Sunday with 19 world championship rainbow jerseys to be awarded.
Cycling powerhouses such as France, Belgium, Great Britain, Russia and Australia have sent teams of varying sizes to the championships to be held at the Stadium Southland Velodrome on August 22-26.
Cycling Southland CEO Nick Jeffrey said they are pleased with the response from the world’s major cycling nations and entries were to expectations.
He is hoping the strong support from New Zealand fans will provide a boost for the kiwi team similar to the deafening roar for Great Britain at the London Olympic Velodrome.
“Our advance ticket sales are strong. We have a fantastic cycling community in the south of the South island and we are also looking forward to lots of support from cycling fans and family from around the country and general sports fans who would have been won over to this sport from watching the London Olympics.”
The countries on show include Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Belgium, Argentina, Great Britain, Belarus, New Zealand, France, Russia, Armenia, Hong Kong, Switzerland, USA, Ukraine, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Korea, Netherlands, Mexico, Chile and Czechoslovakia.
The medal programme is:
Wednesday 22 August: Team Pursuit (women and men), team sprint (women and men).
Thursday 23 August: Men’s scratch, men’s 1000m time trial, women’s points race, men’s omnium day 1.
Friday 24 August: Women’s scratch race, men’s omnium final day, women’s sprint, women’s omnium day 1.
Saturday 25 August: Women’s omnium final, women;s keirin, men’s individual pursuit, men’s points race, men’s sprint.
Sunday 26 August: Women’s individual pursuit, women’s 500m time trial, men’s keirin, men’s Madison.
The qualifying session is from 12.30pm and evening session from 6.30 aside from the final day which runs from 12.30pm to 6pm.