An Olympic gold-medal winning coach, an All Blacks strength and conditioning adviser, and "sleeping with rocks in their beds" could inspire New Zealand's women team pursuiters to deliver a Rio Games medal.
The quartet finished fourth at the world track cycling championships in London today, after Lauren Ellis, Rushlee Buchanan, Jaime Nielsen and Racquel Sheath were defeated by Britain in the bronze medal ride.
The Brits were 3.685s clear of the Kiwis, who could not emulate their two national records set earlier in the meet. Canada edged them for the gold medal ride by 0.003s, despite a second-half comeback.
"That's like 4cms over 4km," Cycling New Zealand high performance director Mark Elliott said. "But they've delivered above expectations."
The recruitment of Brendon Cameron, coach and husband of former Olympic champion Sarah Ulmer, has helped. Add Nic Gill, who has kept the All Blacks in sound physical shape since 2008, and inject the knowledge they are within a few watts, centimetres or milliseconds of reaching the Rio podium.
Cameron expects his charges to earn their just deserts at the Games.
"I'm not too disappointed with losing a medal. The girls will sleep with rocks in their beds over the next five months. They will have a good rest, then rebuild with a focus on the podium. They pipped the world record-holders [Australia] time-wise tonight."
This year's best time of 4m 18.264s trumped their effort at last year's event by 4.409s.
Cameron described Gill, who has completed Ironman events, as a "mad cyclist". "He has the girls riding bigger gears and they've got a consistent gym programme with a lot of erg work when they are not racing. They haven't missed a session through Christmas and New Year."
The team will be based in New Zealand until June, before completing a racing block in Belgium and then joining the sprint team for final Olympic preparations in Bordeaux.
There were mixed fortunes for members of New Zealand's gold medal-winning team sprint.
Sam Webster qualified for the quarter-finals, but Eddie Dawkins fell short. Webster will race against Olympic champion Jason Kenny tomorrow morning.
Aaron Gate lay last halfway through the men's omnium. He suffered a 40-point penalty after failing to finish the opening scratch race.
"That's the knife edge to a world championships," Elliott said. "Halfway through the race, Aaron decided there was an opportunity to take a lap. He got within 10m, but the rest of the field wound up. He was eventually dropped off the back and the effort cost him too much energy."
Dylan Kennett finished seventh in the individual pursuit.