Cycling: Webster misses the cut for sprint trio

By Dylan Cleaver

Aaron Gate and Ethan Mitchell. Photo / Greg Bowker
Aaron Gate and Ethan Mitchell. Photo / Greg Bowker

Everybody knew it was coming, but it didn't make it any easier. Five sprinters will not go into three.

While the less experienced Matt Archibald was widely expected to miss the cut, Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster, Eddie Dawkins and Simon van Velthooven would have all had Olympic hopes tinged with fear.

In the end it was Webster who received the unkindest cut of all, being named reserve rider for London.

The Herald spoke briefly to Webster yesterday, long enough for him to say that he needed the weekend to get his head around the rejection.

At 20 he has his best years ahead, but it will not lessen the sting as he, with Mitchell and Dawkins, looked to be the established team sprint trio.

As it was, the man who forced his way into the reckoning with some superb keirin performances best summed up the situation.

"Sprint coach Justin Grace rang me yesterday and told me I was in," van Velthooven said. "Then he went through all the names and the first thing I thought was: 'Where's Sam Webster?'

"It was always going to be the case that someone would miss out. I thought it was going to be me. It was a bit of relief and guilt and excitement and loss."

Mitchell will continue in his lead-out spot, with Dawkins taking Webster's second-wheel role and van Velthooven bringing it home.

Mitchell and Webster train together virtually every day.

"He's an amazing man. The first thing he did was congratulate me. He's gutted, but he knows there is plenty of time before the Olympics and he is going to put everything into it he can," Mitchell said.

"There's five guys who are as close as each other, but at the end of the day a team had to be named and they selected it within the guidelines and restrictions they were given.

"We're all going to be training just as hard as we can because we share the same common goal of winning a medal at the Olympics."

Mitchell's job is to take the team out of the gate and around the first lap as quickly as possible without the second-wheel rider dropping behind. His personal best is 17.4s but he wants to drop that to 17.2s by July.

BikeNZ yesterday named all their track riders. While quota systems allow them only eight spots for men and six for women, they have scope for a transfer rider from another discipline, meaning one of the men already named will officially be assigned to another discipline.

That will most likely be mountainbike, where New Zealand will qualify one spot for a male rider, but in reality have no specialist up to the standards required.

That extra rider has allowed performance director Mark Elliott to name a five-man team pursuit rotation - a necessity given they will race three times in two days.

Despite the big gains made by the men's sprint team, it is the pursuiters upon whom BikeNZ will be counting for medals.

The men's team of Westley Gough, Aaron Gate, Sam Bewley and Marc Ryan came third at the Melbourne world champs this month and will be bolstered by Jesse Sergent's return.

The women finished a disappointing fourth, but are expected to make gains behind the power of individual pursuit world champion Alison Shanks.

Olympic track team

Men: Shane Archbold, Sam Bewley, Eddie Dawkins, Aaron Gate, Westley Gough, Ethan Mitchell, Marc Ryan, Jesse Sergent, Simon van Velthooven. Reserve: Sam Webster.

Women: Rushlee Buchanan (subject to quote confirmation), Lauren Ellis, Natasha Hansen, Joanne Kiesanowski, Jaime Nielsen, Alison Shanks. Reserve: Katie Schofield.

- NZ Herald

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