Three Southlanders have been selected to represent New Zealand at the Oceania Track Cycling Championships. Bradly Knipe, Tom Sexton, and Nick Kergozou will be swapping their Southland colours for the Fern from 2 to 5 April.
With a weather-eye on the immediate need for global points but with a desire to look to the future, Cycling New Zealand has selected a mix of proven and potential in the team to context next week’s track competition at the Oceania Championships in Brisbane.
The Oceania Cycling Confederation has organised nine categories of cycling to compete in and around Brisbane over three weeks, starting with downhill mountain bike at the weekend and finishing with the road race on April 10.
It mirrors the plans by the UCI for the world championships for every discipline to be staged in Glasgow in 2023.
It is the first significant competition for the high performance track squad since the Tokyo Olympics, and with a significant change to the global racing structure from last year, it has left southern hemisphere nations, especially Australia and New Zealand, in urgent need for global qualifying points.
“It is a double-edged sword for our high performance riders in that aside from the Olympics, we were forced to bypass the new Nations Cup competition, which replaced World Cups as the primary qualifying system to world championships and Olympics,” said acting High Performance Director, Amy Taylor.
“Equally with the effects of the covid pandemic, it has meant there have been very few development opportunities for our next group of riders. So we made the strategic decision to select a mix of riders for the Oceania Championships.”
Olympians Aaron Gate, who is returning from Europe, Queensland-based Jordan Kerby and Tokyo reserves Nick Kergozou and Tom Sexton anchor the men’s endurance squad along with Dan Bridgwater (Waikato BOP), George Jackson (Wellington), Keegan Hornblow (Tasman) and Hugo Jones (Canterbury) who all impressed at the recent national championships.
Bridgwater, a former rower, earned six podiums at the national championships from time trail to time trials; Jackson won both the Points race and Elimination to prove his wide skillset; while Hornblow and Jones had five podiums between them.
Missing are European-based professional road riders Campbell Stewart and Corbin Strong while in-form Regan Gough is out with illness.
The women’s endurance squad, without several Olympians now retired or injured, is led by the brilliant Bryony Botha, Ally Wollaston and Michaela Drummond who are joined by development riders Ella Wyllie (Auckland) and Prudence Fowler (Waikato BOP).
Botha was the star of the nationals while Wollaston and Drummond represented New Zealand at last year’s world championships, and are on their way to Europe to join their pro road teams. Wyllie and Fowler have come through the development system, claiming seven podiums between them at the nationals.
Tokyo medallist Ellesse Andrews heads the women’s sprint group with exciting Olympic BMX rider Rebecca Petch with fellow Waikato-BOP rider Olivia King, who broke the national team sprint record at the weekend.
Petch will mix track with BMX at the Oceania Championships while King was second in the time trial and keirin.
The men include triple world champion Sam Webster and fellow Olympian Sam Dakin, joined by development riders Bradly Knipe (Southland), and Patrick Clancy (Tasman).
Knipe was second in the keirin and sprint at the nationals and part of the winning team sprint while Clancy, a produce of the development programme, impressed in both sprint and endurances races last week.
“These championships are important for us to gain some healthy points towards the world championships later in the year, but at the same time it is an opportunity to look at the next group of riders coming through,” said Taylor.
There are only three Nations Cup events this year in Glasgow next month, Milton (Canada) in May and Cali (Colombia) in July, which adds to the challenge both in terms of travel and economics for New Zealand and Australia.
New Zealand will have a handful of European-based riders attend the Glasgow event, with Sexton, Wollaston and Drummond joining their pro road teams in Europe after the Brisbane competition, to be joined by Stewart, who rides for Bike Exchange World Tour team.
The full-strength endurance group will target the Nations Cup in Canada with the sprinters heading to Colombia to cement world championship qualifying and competition.