Cycling New Zealand has named an 18-strong team, including seven Southlanders, to contest the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in the Netherlands in early March.
The Vantage Elite Team is anchored by the men’s team sprint trio of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins, who have medalled in each of the last six years including earning rainbow jerseys in 2014, 2016 and last year.
Success at Apeldoorn would make them the first team outside of Europe to win the men’s team sprint world title three times in a row.
The 2018 Championships, from 28 February to 4 March, will mark 10 years since Cycling New Zealand initiated a targeted high performance programme, which is now centralised at the Avantidrome in Cambridge. New Zealand won just 11 medals in the nearly four decades from their first success in 1970 but in the last nine years they have amassed 35 medals.
While there is an aim for more success in the Netherlands, the team has a considerable accent on youth, with an average age of under 23 years and with five teenagers included. They are far from just young hopefuls, with the nine riders in the team who are 21 years or younger having amassed 20 junior world championship medals between them over the last five years.
High Performance Director, Martin Barras said the world championships are the designated pinnacle event for Cycling New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand for the track programme this year. However the organisation continues to drive the youth development pathway through their national Subway Performance Hub system.
“We have a healthy mix of proven performance and riders for the future in the team going to Apeldoorn,” Barras said. “Of course the men’s team sprint are the beacon for this group but we also have key members of the endurance squads in men and women who have Olympic experience and medalled at the world championships in Hong Kong last year.”
Nick Kergozou, Regan Gough and Dylan Kennett return in the men’s endurance squad from the group that won the silver medal last year, joined by exciting teenagers Campbell Stewart and Tom Sexton, who were outstanding in World Cup performances prior to Christmas.
The outstanding Rushlee Buchanan heads the women’s endurance group, joining Racquel Sheath, Kirsty Klingenberg (nee James) and teenager Michaela Drummond from the team that won the bronze medal last year. Double junior world championship medallist Bryony Botha completes the group, with the experienced Jaime Nielsen not recovered from illness following her successful national one-hour record bid.
The sprint squad is a record eight-strong with the group including world junior champion Bradly Knipe and Manawatu’s Jordan Castle.
For the first time, three riders comprise the women’s sprint group with world No 5 ranked Natasha Hansen joined by double junior world championship medallists Emma Cumming (Southland) and Olivia Podmore (Canterbury).
“We are excited about the team, not only in terms of acquitting themselves well in Apeldoorn, but also for the future while remembering that we also have a number of other young riders training hard at home.”
The team leaves for the World Championships on 19 February, two days after the full cycling team is named for the Commonwealth Games.
The team is:
Sprint: Jordan Castle (Manawatu), Emma Cumming (Southland), Eddie Dawkins (Southland), Natasha Hansen (Southland), Bradly Knipe (Southland), Ethan Mitchell (Auckland), Olivia Podmore (Canterbury), Sam Webster (Auckland).
Endurance: Bryony Botha (Auckland), Rushlee Buchanan (Waikato), Michaela Drummond (Manawatu), Regan Gough (Hawkes Bay), Dylan Kennett (South Canterbury), Nick Kergozou (Southland), Kirstie Klingenberg (Southland), Tom Sexton (Southland), Racquel Sheath (Waikato), Campbell Stewart (Manawatu).
CAPTION: The Cycling New Zealand sprint trio of (from right) Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins at the start of final of the Team Sprint at the 2017 UCI Track World Championships in Hong Kong. (Photo courtesy Guy Swarbrick)