Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cycling: Bewley on track for crack at gold

Sam Bewley has been training hard for London.
Photo / Getty Images
Sam Bewley has been training hard for London. Photo / Getty Images

Cyclist Sam Bewley only has eyes for the velodrome over the next five months despite that decision leaving his long-term future as a potential Tour de France rider in limbo.

The Beijing team pursuiter is focused on the same Olympic discipline for London as he looks to turn his 2008 bronze medal into gold.

In October Bewley (24) was cut from the now merged RadioShack-Nissan-Trek pro-team roster which includes his Beijing Games pursuiting teammates Jesse Sergent and Hayden Roulston. "I don't bear a grudge," Bewley says.

"I enjoyed my time under the management of Johan Bruyneel [the mastermind behind eight Tour de France wins; seven to Lance Armstrong and one to Alberto Contador]. He gave me the opportunity to turn pro, otherwise I'd still be racing for nothing. I can take all sorts of stuff I learned from those two years into the rest of my career.

"I'm confident I can get another decent contract [in Europe]. I believe I deserve one; I have confidence in my abilities and don't want to sell myself short."

At the time, Bewley returned home to Rotorua from his base in Girona, Spain. He sampled the Rugby World Cup, devoured his grandma's pikelets and dominated the pool table on the odd occasion at the local RSA.

Bewley intends to pursue road racing fulltime in Europe after London. He says the axing from RadioShack-Nissan-Trek sharpened his focus towards leaving an Olympic track legacy for New Zealand. Until Beijing the country had not earned a team pursuit medal.

"Provided I can keep my spot, these are my last five months on the track. I want to be totally committed without any potential for regret."

In-depth Olympic preparation is in progress. The team of Bewley, Aaron Gate, Westley Gough, Peter Latham and Marc Ryan took bronze at the most recent World Cup in London a fortnight ago.

There is a camp in Invercargill starting March 12 followed by the world championships in Melbourne from April 4-8.

Pressure is building with at least one of the incumbents likely to be omitted for the Games to make way for Sergent, who is currently defending his Tour of Flanders title. New Zealand is expected to name its cycling team on April 27.

"The other week it was great to get a feel for what we'll be up against in London in terms of opposition, facilities and logistics," Bewley says.

"We had a good ride [3m 59.242s] on limited preparation but there is room to improve by 4-5 seconds, especially when we get Jesse back. He makes a big difference. I'd hate to be in the coaches and selectors' shoes."

Australia remain the benchmark. Their time of 3m 54.615s against Britain in the final was the second fastest in history.

In the meantime Bewley has been doing what he describes as a "little endurance fitness top-up" with the BikeNZ PureBlack Racing team on the 10-day Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia.

He pulled out after five stages and flew home mid-week.

"I would have liked to stay the whole tour but I had to make a decision that was right for me. It was so bloody hot and humid.

"On that 190km fifth stage it was like riding in a sauna; I was struggling to breathe. It left me afraid that if I completed the tour I'd get into a big hole of fatigue which I'd take weeks to come out of."

- Herald on Sunday

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