Cycling: Strong team chasing rainbow's pot of gold

By Dylan Cleaver

Rushlee Buchanan. Photo / APN
Rushlee Buchanan. Photo / APN

Some of the big-name Europeans might leave a little in their bike bags, but New Zealand will show their full hand at next month's world champs.

BikeNZ yesterday named their largest team to ever compete at a UCI meeting, with 20 riders selected across all four categories of track cycling. Their goals are clear - personal best times in the hunt for rainbow jerseys, the coveted piece of clothing that comes with winning a world championship.

"Any rider who can wear a rainbow jersey into an Olympic campaign takes a lot of confidence with them.," said BikeNZ high-performance director Mark Elliott. "We want all of our riders to perform to their maximum potential at the world champs and if they do that we know they're in the hunt for rainbow jerseys and that's all we can ask at this stage."

The bulk of this team were at London for the Olympic test event, coming home with mixed results.

"We always knew were going to be a bit average," Elliott said. "The world champs is a key event, timing-wise, when you look at that Olympic cycle. There was no way we could peak for the test event, for the world champs, and then the Olympics. It was about getting athletes exposure to that environment."

London was an anomaly after strong showings at world cups and the Oceania Champs. Proximity to Melbourne gave them the opportunity to fill all the places they had qualified in.

"In that respect we have the chance to look a little to the future with some of the selections."

One of those selections is big Christchurch endurance rider Alex Frame.

"He showed something special to us out of our elite nationals in the individual pursuit. You don't often see kids come out of juniors into first year of seniors pursuit that fast," Elliott said. "He's gone to Australia, to a couple of the big carnival races and some of the data we got from him indicated he's got something special.

"He's in here for a learning opportunity, to be in that high-performance environment."

Frame will probably ride in one of the non-Olympic disciplines like the scratch race, but for the women's sprint team of Natasha Hansen and Katie Schofield there is still the opportunity to qualify for London.

"The challenge for them is not times. They were only .3s out of qualifying for a medal ride [at the Olympic test event] in London and that was under training load," Elliott said. "The challenge is that because they've only come together and they've only shown that potential in the past six months, they're competing against nations that have been grabbing Olympic points for the last three years."

Elliott hopes they will accrue enough points to surpass Venezuela and take their Olympic spot.

He also hoped the worlds would give some clarity on whether they take an extra sprinter and leave the pursuit team without a specialist reserve. Limited spots mean they have to cut their cloth to suit.

The team, training at the Invercargill Velodrome before leaving for Melbourne next week, have won 22 medals at world championships, 11 since 2009.

FULL HAND

Team for the Melbourne World Championships, April 4-8

Female endurance: Rushlee Buchanan, Gemma Dudley, Lauren Ellis, Jo Kiesanowski, Jaime Nielsen, Alison Shanks. Coach: Dayle Cheatley.

Male endurance*: Shane Archbold, Sam Bewley, Alex Frame, Aaron Gate, Westley Gough, Peter Latham, Marc Ryan. Coach: Tim Carswell.

Male sprint: Matt Archibald, Eddie Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell, Simon Van Velthooven, Sam Webster. Coach: Justin Grace.

Female sprint: Natasha Hansen, Katie Schofield. Coach: Stu MacDonald.

*Jesse Sergent is unavailable.

- NZ Herald

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