Cycling New Zealand has named a team mixed with proven and potential performers for their first UCI Track World Cup late this month.
A Vantage elite squad of 17 riders will contest the third round of the six-stop World Cup circuit, set for Hong Kong on 29 November to 1 December, which is the final international qualifying series to secure placings and performances leading to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The highlight of the World Cup circuit is the fourth round at the Avantidrome in Cambridge on 6-8 December before heading across the Tasman to Brisbane on 13-15 December.
The three-time world champion team sprint trio of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins have been named, after their impressive performances at the recent Oceania Championships, when they produced their fastest time since the Rio Olympics. It was competitive with the efforts of world champions Netherlands and Great Britain in the opening World Cup in Minsk at the weekend.
With an eye to the future, former Marlborough rider Callum Saunders has been rewarded for two international wins in the keirin this season with his first World Cup for the Vantage elite team.
The leading women’s sprint trio of Commonwealth Games medallists Natasha Hansen and Ellesse Andrews are joined by Rio Olympian Olivia Podmore, with all three performing strongly at the Oceania Championships.
The endurance men’s squad is led by omnium world champion Campbell Stewart with world championship medallist Tom Sexton and the experienced Nick Kergozou. They are joined by emerging Southland rider Corbin Strong, the 2018 junior team pursuit world champion, and the return of Dylan Kennett, who has been in impressive form on the road with his St George Continental team.
The women’s endurance squad brings together five young riders who have all tasted junior world championship podium success. They are led by current world bronze medal pursuiter Michaela Drummond; Waikato’s Jessie Hodges, the group’s elder at 23 years; and two-time junior world pursuit medallists Nicole Shields and Emily Shearman. The group is rounded out by Waikato teenager Ally Wollaston, the current junior pursuit world champion.
Cycling New Zealand High Performance Director, Martin Barras said the group has a range of goals in their first World Cup competition.
“Clearly we want to earn some good qualifying points as we work towards the world championships and also secure places for the Tokyo Olympics.
“In terms of the sprints, we are sending our strongest riders and while we are looking for solid performances, we will also work with different combinations as we look ahead ultimately to Tokyo.
“Our endurance coaches are wanting to mix things up over the next three World Cups and give all the combinations and riders every chance to impress. We are excited with some of the young talent pushing through and they will definitely pressure our more established and experienced riders.
“It is a balancing act of providing some good opportunities but also keeping a weather-eye on the long game through to Tokyo.”
Barras said they will have the opportunity to give more riders racing experience when the World Cup comes to Cambridge next month, with several trade teams entered along with the national team.
The Vantage elite team for the first UCI World Cup is:
Female, Endurance: Michaela Drummond (Manawatu), Jessie Hodges (Waikato), Emily Shearman (Manawatu), Nicole Shields (Central Otago), Ally Wollaston (Waikato). Sprint: Ellesse Andrews (Southland), Natasha Hansen (Southland, Subway trade team), Olivia Podmore (Canterbury).
Male, Endurance: Dylan Kennett (Mid Canterbury), Nick Kergozou (Southland), Tom Sexton (Southland), Campbell Stewart (Manawatu), Corbin Strong (Southland). Sprint: Eddie Dawkins (Southland), Ethan Mitchell (Auckland), Callum Saunders (Waikato), Sam Webster (Auckland).