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Rio Olympics 2016: Dawkins relishing target on his back

New Zealand track sprint cyclist Eddie Dawkins. Photo / Brett Phibbs
New Zealand track sprint cyclist Eddie Dawkins. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Eddie Dawkins is relishing the idea of racing with a target on his back.

Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster are marked men going into Thursday's team sprint qualifying at the Rio Olympics.

The trio have won world championship gold for two of the last three years, including at this year's event in London.

Dawkins, who also won keirin silver at the London championships in March, is well aware they'll be facing some quality opposition, but he isn't intimidated.

"We're on top of our game, but we expect everybody else to be on top of their game," he said.

"World champions or not, everyone's going out with guns blazing. Every race is do or die for us, and that's what we expect from every other nation."

The Dawkins-Mitchell-Webster combination is well-established - anchorman Dawkins reckons they've been racing together for eight years now - and that accumulated knowledge could make all the difference on Thursday.

"I've ridden a lot of times behind those two boys, we've had good times and bad times," Dawkins said. "We've had a good run, and it's not a run of luck.

"It comes down to all that training you've put in, and we've done too much, we've come too far, to go away with anything other than what we expect."

The trio face a punishing schedule on Thursday afternoon, with qualifying, round one and finals all within the space of two hours and 20 minutes.

They'll be joined by sprinters Natasha Hansen and Liv Podmore in the women's team sprint, and the men's and women's team pursuiters.

Head coach Dayle Cheatley is quietly confident his squad are in the shape to deliver medals, but he won't be drawn on what sort or how many.

For the first time, New Zealand has qualified riders in all 10 track cycling disciplines, one of only three countries to do so

"We get that question of the medal target all the time," he told NZ Newswire. "I know our teams are in PB form, but we can't control what everyone else does.

"I think we're in the hunt for a good haul."

-NZN

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