While New Zealand’s top track cyclists will inevitably draw most of the limelight at this weekend’s Tissot UCI Track World Cup, the next generation will be looking to make a name for themselves in front of the home crowd in Cambridge.
Cycling New Zealand has entered two trade teams into the fourth round of the UCI event, providing 14 riders across the sprint and endurance disciplines the rare opportunity to experience international racing at this level.
Cycling New Zealand High Performance Director Martin Barras said it was important that the programme capitalises on the opportunity that a home World Cup presents.
“While the bottom line at these events is securing qualifying points for the impending World Championships and Olympics, it is imperative that we make the most of giving our young riders a chance to pit themselves against the best in the world.
“As well as being important for their development, it’s an opportunity for them to show us what they can do and challenge for spots in the World Championship and Olympic teams.”
Those selected for the Southern Spars and Subway New Zealand trade teams reads as a who’s who of the future of New Zealand track cycling, featuring local talent, fresh faces and most importantly, potential.
Three teenagers that represented New Zealand at this year’s Junior Track World Championships in Germany will step up to World Cup level, including rainbow jersey holders Cambridge’s Ally Wollaston and Taupo’s Kiaan Watts. They are joined by Conor Shearing, who has come through the SIT Southern Hub based out of Invercargill, with all three set to line up in Friday’s team pursuit competition.
The Subway New Zealand women’s endurance squad has a more experienced look about it with Rio Olympian Racquel Sheath making her return to the track from a broken elbow, while 21 year old Michaela Drummond will join Jessie Hodges, the scratch race bronze medallist from the January event, as a new pairing in the Madison.
The team will be looking to back up from an impressive first outing of the season in Hong Kong last weekend where they won gold in the team pursuit and silver in the Madison.
The Southern Spars trade team will be a dark horse in the men’s team sprint with the new combination of Bradly Knipe, Sam Dakin and Jordan Castle, setting a new personal best to finish behind the multi world title winning Vantage New Zealand team and a strong Australian trio at the recent Oceania Championships.
This will be Knipe and Dakin’s second appearance at a home World Cup, while Castle joins the line-up after his recovery from a serious crash in Germany that stalled any plans of making the start line in January.
The trio have benefited from the direction of new head sprint coach Rene Wolff and are determined to follow in the footsteps of Olympic silver medallists Eddie Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster who have set the standard in men’s track sprinting over the past five years.
“As a team, we’re keen to build upon our performance at Oceania’s,” said Castle.
“Competing in this World Cup is another key step on our journey towards becoming elite athletes, and is an opportunity to prove that we can perform under pressure at a high level.
“On a personal level, I’m just excited to finally get to race on my home track in front of all the people who have been so supportive over the years.”
The Tissot UCI Track World Cup is on at the Avantidrome from Friday 6 to Sunday 8 December. Tickets to individual sessions are available to purchase from Ticketek.