Cycling: Cyclists on medal mission

By David Leggat

NZ squad eyes success at Commonwealth Games with mix of youth and experience.

Linda Villumsen will be a strong contender for gold. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Linda Villumsen will be a strong contender for gold. Photo / Mark Mitchell

New Zealand will arrive in Glasgow with high expectation of a solid haul of medals from its bike riders.

The naming of the road and mountainbike squads yesterday leaves only the prospect of a small handful of late additions to the track squad named last month.

There is serious experience, particularly among the men, headed by double Olympic medallist Hayden Roulston, 34, and fellow four-time Commonwealth rider Greg Henderson, 37.

Linda Villumsen has been on the podium at the last five world championship time trials without standing at the top. This could be her year, with her consistency a hallmark of her work.

"The courses in Glasgow for the time trial and road race will suit Linda, who has been the most consistent time trial rider in the world for the last five years," BikeNZ high performance boss Mark Elliott said.

But there is also a distinct accent on youth in some parts of the group.

Take 2012 junior world mountainbike champion Anton Cooper. He's only 19, and has an 18-year-old, Sam Gaze, for company. Kate Fluker of Queenstown is the sole women's representative after just three years in the sport.

London Olympian Karen Hanlen is hoping to make the trip but first needs a medical clearance from BikeNZ.

In Melbourne eight years ago, New Zealand won just four cycling medals, none of them gold.

That jumped to 11 at Delhi in 2010 and now BikeNZ, High Performance Sport and the New Zealand Olympic Committee all expect success. And yet that commodity has been relatively scarce down the years.

There were time trial medals to Villumsen (2010) and Gordon McCauley in 2006, while Roulston won the road silver in Delhi. Before that it was back to Susy Pryde in 1998.

So while Commonwealth medals are now viewed as musts, there's also the target of the Rio Olympics in 2016 looming. BikeNZ wants to see signs its younger riders are grasping the Olympic nettle. The likes of Cooper and 20-year-old North Harbour rider James Oram fit that bill.

- NZ Herald

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