With a weather-eye fixed on the 2016 Olympics, Cycling New Zealand will invest in youth for this month’s UCI Track Cycling World Championships.
Following strong performances at the national championships, Cycling New Zealand has included newcomers Alex Frame (Canterbury) 21, and Regan Gough (Hawkes Bay) 19, in their 18-strong team to compete at the world championships in Paris from 18-22 February.
Twenty-one-year old Dylan Kennett has earned a recall after missing the recent World Cup series, following his eye-catching displays at the national championships.
Cycling New Zealand high performance director Mark Elliott said the clear focus is looking ahead to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“We have been tracking the progress of our developing riders in light of where we believe they can be in 18 months time,” Elliott said. “That does not mean we have shut the door on other riders, but given the current form of some young riders, these world championships present the ideal opportunity to transition them with a clear focus on Rio.”
Frame, Gough and Kennett are part of the endurance squad to join 21 year old Pieter Bulling, who has developed into a key contributor in the engine room, and double Olympic medallist Marc Ryan who will provide the key leadership and experience.
“The form of the young endurance riders is undeniable and while some need more development especially in team pursuit, it’s logical to give them that world championship experience now.”
Gough is a current junior world champion who won the points race title at the national championships and is likely to contest the bunch racing events in Paris.
Frame has returned to focus on the track after riding for the development team of World Tour’s Giant-Shimano, winning the scratch race at the weekend while Kennett took out the individual pursuit.
Aaron Gate will compete in the omnium although still not back to his best form.
Elliott said that as there are only four further opportunities for Gate to contest an international-quality omnium under its revamped format before Rio, his selection to Paris is important.
“Aaron is a former world champion in this event and with the right preparation will be a medal potential in Rio, although we recognize he is not in that sort of form at present.”
The women’s endurance squad remains unchanged after encouraging performances at the opening two world cups, currently ranked third in the Olympic nations rankings. Twenty year old Racquel Sheath will contest the omnium while Rushlee Buchannan, Georgia Williams, Jaime Nielsen and Lauren Ellis will compete in the team pursuit.
Steph McKenzie, with four titles at the national championships, gets the nod as the key sprinter with Katie Schofield included as the best starter in the team sprint, while London Olympic Natasha Hansen, who only returned to the squad late last year, will be a potential contender in the future.
The jewel in the crown is the men sprint with all five current high performance squad riders included with Matt Archibald and Simon van Velthooven to provide cover for the world champion trio of Sam Webster, Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins.
“This reflects our commitment to provide all the resources possible to defend the team sprint world title, with Matt our back up as a starter and Simon to back up the others, while both of them are capable of medals in the 1000m time trial.”
The team have a further week of training at the Avantidrome before flying to Paris next Monday ahead of the championships on 18-22 February.
The team is:
Men’s Endurance: Pieter Bulling (Invercargill), Alex Frame (Christchurch), Aaron Gate (Auckland), Regan Gough (Waipukurau), Dylan Kennett (Waimate), Marc Ryan (Timaru).
Women’s Endurance: Rushlee Buchanan (Te Awamutu), Lauren Ellis (Hinds), Jaime Nielsen (Cambridge), Racquel Sheath (Cambridge), Georgia Williams (Timaru).
Men’s Sprint: Matt Archibald (Invercargill), Eddie Dawkins (Invercargill), Ethan Mitchell (Auckland), Simon van Velthooven (Feilding), Sam Webster (Auckland).
Women’s Sprint: Stephanie McKenzie (Invercargill), Katie Schofield (Otago).
Head Coach: Dayle Cheatley
Sprint coach: Anthony Peden
Endurance coach men: Tim Carswell
Endurance coach women: Craig Palmer
Manager: Jessica Massey
CAPTION: The Cycling New Zealand track team for the world championships at the Avantidrome today.
Photo courtesy Dianne Manson