Leading professional George Bennett will head the Vantage New Zealand men’s team for next month’s UCI road cycling world championships in Austria.
Bennett was fifth just behind the winner in today’s second stage of the Vuelta a Espana with the Lotto-NL Jumbo professional using the three-week Grand Tour as a springboard onto the world championships.
The mountainous course for the world championships in Innsbruck is expected to suit the climber from Nelson. Cycling New Zealand have assembled a team of riders that will support the Lotto-NL rider in the September 30 road race event.
Experienced professional cyclists Sam Bewley (Mitchelton Scott), Patrick Bevin (BMC Racing) and Dion Smith (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), who have all raced a Grand Tour this year, will join in support of Bennett in the four-strong team.
Smith will compete in the Bretagne Classic and the Tour of Britain as preparation for Austria while Bevin, who has signed a two-year extension with CCC-BMC Racing, and Bewley, are expected to ride in the team time trial at the world championships for their respective pro teams.
Bevin, who has been in superb form this year, will join Oceania Champion and Commonwealth Games medallist Hamish Bond in the individual time trial on September 26.
World No 52 ranked Georgia Williams is back on her bike following a crash, which resulted in a fractured hip and sacrum and hopes to be fit for the world championships. She has been named in the Mitchelton-Scott squad for the team time trial and will make her decision to compete in both the individual time trial and road race based closer to the date, based on her fitness.
She will be supported by Mikayla Harvey from Wanaka and Grace Anderson from Auckland, who both ride for UCI pro outfit Team Illuminate.
Harvey has enjoyed a strong international season after winning the under-23 time trial honours at the Oceania Championships and finishing second in the youth classification a the Santos Women’s Tour. Riding for Team Illuminate, she was third in the mountains classification at the Guizhou Road Race in China and sixth in the youth classification at the Amgen Tour of California.
Anderson won the youth classification at the Santos women’s tour and second at the Herald Sun Tour at the start of the year. She was seventh in the mountains category in China and third in the young rider classification at the Tour of California, where she was the leading rider for the team overall.
They are both named to ride the road race with Harvey also competing in the elite time trial, with no under-23 category in women’s cycling at the world championships, which makes this a massive test for the young riders.
National champion James Fouche from Auckland, currently riding for Team Wiggins pro team, heads the men’s under-23 team along with Ryan Christiansen and James Mitri.
Fouche won the young rider category at Le Triptyque Des Monts in Belgium and finished sixth in the Tour of Bretagne, as well as leading the New Zealand team at the Nations Cup in Belgium. Christensen recently stepped up to the British Canyon-Eisberg continental team which includes the Tanfield brothers Harry and Charlie, while Mitri has a three-year deal with Spanish pro continental team Burgos-BH.
The road and time trial courses, especially for the elite men, are ranked among the most challenging profiles for a world championship in recent times in terms of climbing.
The Vantage New Zealand team is:
Male, Road race: George Bennett (Lotto-NL Jumbo), Dion Smith (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Patrick Bevin (BMC Racing), Sam Bewley (Mitchelton-Scott). Time Trial: Hamish Bond and Bevin.
Female, road race: Georgia Williams (Mitchelton-Scott), Grace Anderson (Team Illuminate), Mikayla Harvey (Team Illuminate). Time trial: Harvey.
Male Under-23, road race: James Fouche (Team Wiggins), Ryan Christensen (Canyon Eisberg), James Mitri (Burgos-BH). Time trial: Fouche.
24 September: Women Junior Time Trial (20km), Men Under-23 Time Trial (28km).
25 September: Men Junior Time Trial (28km), Women Elite Time Trial (28km).
26 September: Men Time Trial (54km).
27 September: Women Junior Road Race (72km), Men Junior Road Race (138km).
28 September: Men Under-23 Road Race (186km)
29 September: Women Road Race (162km)
30 September: Men Road Race (265km).