The Vantage Elite New Zealand track cycling team are digging deep for what they hope will be their final outing of the Tissot UCI World Cup season in Brisbane starting on Friday.
After strong performances, including some near-world record efforts on home turf in Cambridge last week, the team is hoping to score more ranking points to shore-up spots for February’s world championships and take giant strides towards securing places for the Tokyo Olympics.
Cycling New Zealand coaches continue to give riders opportunities to impress in the highly competitive environment with approximately 25 riders chasing 15 spots for Tokyo.
Two of last week’s starring women’s team pursuit, who rode the third fastest time in history, return this week with Michaela Drummond and Racquel Sheath joining Bryony Botha and Holly Edmondston while Rushlee Buchanan pairs with Drummond in the madison and Edmondston also rides in the omnium.
Tom Sexton and Corbin Strong join Campbell Stewart, Jordan Kerby and Regan Gough in the men’s team pursuit, with coach Craig Palmer giving all of his squad opportunities. While they had to settle for the bronze medal last week, their time of 3:50:163 was only 4/1000ths of a second outside their national record.
Aaron Gate, who made an outstanding return to competition in Cambridge, will compete in the omnium and the madison, where he will partner World Cup winner Sexton, with world champion Stewart focusing on the team pursuit.
The pairing of Olivia Podmore and Natasha Hansen broke the national record on the way to an upset win in the women’s team sprint in Cambridge, with their 32.794s effort the seventh fastest time ever. They will partner again this week with Ellesse Andrews riding the individual events.
There is genuine excitement in the men’s sprint camp with the well-performed Sam Dakin getting his opportunity along with Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster, while Eddie Dawkins is spelled after a massive workload.
“It is a two-fold mission for us. Firstly and most important is to secure the ranking points for our key events for the world championships and on to Tokyo. That is top priority,” said Cycling New Zealand high performance director, Martin Barras.
“To do that is to test ourselves against some very strong competition this weekend, where none will be tougher than the Australians. They are back on home-turf in the Anna Meares Velodrome where they had so much success at the Commonwealth Games.
“Second is to give all our riders more opportunities to press their individual claims, in reality their final opportunity before we select the team for the world championships.”