Double Olympic medallist Hayden Roulston is hoping he can help the next group of young cyclists who will get a unique opportunity to compete in the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Cambridge starting today.
Roulston, who won silver and bronze medals at the Beijing Olympics that led to a successful professional career on the road, is now Cycling New Zealand's men's endurance development coach.
While the elite New Zealand team is chasing ranking points towards qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Roulston is guiding the New Zealand development men's team who will ride under the Southern Spars Trade Team banner in the team pursuit and scratch race. They include junior world champions George Jackson, Josh Scott and Kiaan Watts, along with Conor Shearing and Hugo Jones. A key part of hosting the World Cup on home turf at the Avantidrome is to give experience to the next group of young riders, which Roulston believes is invaluable.
"It is one thing to compete in a national event or a centre championship but to be able to race a World Cup at home is a massive deal for these blokes. It is a great opportunity to get a bit of experience at a high level and understand how a World Cup works and the pressure that comes with it. To do it at home is really amazing," said Roulston.
The standard and depth of the Cycling New Zealand programme is significantly greater than his time and therefore the transition to the elite ranks is considerable.
"We have identified a gap between our top juniors and elite level. To make the jump from a teenage junior, no matter who you are, or what you have done, into the elite squad is quite difficult. Our elite squad is now very strong and that jump is even more difficult.
"The space I am working in is providing opportunities for this group to come together and train, experience things like the World Cup and Oceania Championships, so that we do not lose them.
"Without the help then they might just wander away rather than have the patience to keep working at it.
"We only had a very small number of elite riders when I was racing but it is a different game with the depth that New Zealand has these days and having the development programme in place is only going to be good for our future."
This week's targets are small — to secure a second ride — which means they will need to be in the top eight in qualifying.
"We are already going well and have high hopes. We are after small targets here but the key one is to get a second ride in the team pursuit and to do that we have to qualify in the top eight. That will mean breaking four minutes which none of them have done before.
"When we [New Zealand] broke four minutes, I think it was 3:59, we felt we were kings. Now they are breaking 3:50. I think we are going to see some really fast times in Cambridge this week."
Roulston is loving his new life as a coach. "The thing I bring is that I have done it before. I know the pressures and the stress, I have had the limelight. I am enjoying the challenge of bringing young riders together and performing on the day."