Sprinters to lead team
New Zealand's in-form sprinters will lead a BikeNZ team that will chase medals in next month's UCI track cycling world championships in Belarus.
Four sprinters have been included in a five-strong team to contest the championships from 24-28 February in the capital of Minsk.
World class form from the men's sprint group has ensured their selection including victory in the team sprint at the recent UCI World Cup in Mexico and an outstanding time recorded by London Olympic medallist Simon Van Velthooven in the 1000m time trial as well as a brilliant keirin victory at the national track championships that finished in Invercargill yesterday.
The quartet of sprinters for Belarus comprises the successful Mexico combination of Ethan Mitchell (Auckland), Sam Webster (Auckland) and Eddie Dawkins (Invercargill) along with Van Velthooven (Palmerston North).
Olympic team pursuit medallist Aaron Gate (Auckland) earned his selection based on excellent form at the championships where he dominated all endurance events, winning the individual pursuit, scratch race, points race and Madison with Myron Simpson.
BikeNZ High Performance Director Mark Elliott said medal potential was the key in team selection.
"We are in a rebuilding phase in terms of our men's team pursuit and while we could have put a team together that would be competitive in Minsk, we believe that level of investment will be better spent on the development of a new group of endurance track riders.
"Our plan is to send eight riders to our European base in Belgium to focus on skills and development in track cycling and a road training and racing component."
Ellliott said that the women's endurance and sprint riders will be domestically based this year, aiming towards the Oceania Championships later in the year as their key qualifying event for a full World Cup campaign in 2014 in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
He said that the form from the men's sprint group has been world class in recent weeks.
"The unlucky rider is Matt Archibald. He is an integral part of the development and his contribution has been world class. One of the real strengths with this group is there is real competition within it and that matt is able to slot in to any role and we will not lose anything.
"However the team sprint that won in Mexico earned their place and Simon's performance at the national championships demanded his selection."
Mitchell, Webster and Dawkins will comprise the teams print and Van Velthooven will compete in the 1000m time trial and keirin but other starts have yet to be finalised.
Gate will compete in the omnium, the six-discipline event that debuted in the London Olympics.
"It is likely that the omnium will remain on the Olympic schedule and therefore this is a great opportunity for Aaron to test out his future potential in this event with an eye towards Rio.
"It's quite likely our omnium rider in Rio will also need to be in the team pursuit squad as well."
World champion Alison Shanks was unavailable because of injury.
The team is:
Eddie Dawkins (Invercargill), Aaron Gate (Auckland), Ethan Mitchell (Auckland), Simon Van Velthooven (Palmerston North), Sam Webster (Auckland).
Coaches: Dayle Cheatley, Justin Grace.
The Southland Times