Rio medals will keep cash rolling in
Three years. Three medals; one gold.
It's a simple equation, but simple isn't easy when you are talking about Olympic medals.
That's the challenge facing BikeNZ head coach Dayle Cheatley, one he's been drilling into his riders in Invercargill during the past week.
Because the Rio Olympics are a long way in the future, but also just around the corner, and BikeNZ track riders will need to climb the podium in Rio three times in 2016 to keep the cash coming from High Performance Sport New Zealand.
"That's what we get funded on. It's public knowledge, three [medals], including gold. With the squads this week, we've been reinforcing that, saying 'this is why we are here guys, that's what we are funded to produce'.
If you look at this year, there's been a bit of success. We've had four medals, including gold, at world championship level in Olympic disciplines. That's how we assess it; if the Olympics were this year, we'd be ahead of the game."
Cheatley is nearing the end of his first year in charge of the BikeNZ programme, having graduated from the women's endurance coaching role when Tim Carswell took up a job with the sport's international body in Switzerland.
He took up coaching fulltime as Cycling Southland's track and road coach in 2008, soon after an abrupt end to his own cycling career prompted by a nasty crash at the end of the Gore to Invercargill Classic, from which his hip has never fully recovered.
A Tour of Southland stage winner, Cheatley represented New Zealand on the track for a decade as an endurance rider, winning silver at world cup level with the New Zealand pursuit team in Mexico in 2004.
By his own admission he was handy without being brilliant on the bike, but he sees that as more of an advantage than an impediment.
"I never really rode fulltime. I was always working and riding, or studying and riding. Before 2008, I'd done a few coaching courses and applied for PM scholarships and spent time in Australia at symposiums with rugby league coaches, seeing how they bring their team together and get the culture right. I was always wanting to go down this pathway, I probably felt I had more to offer on the inside the track than I did on the track. I was good, but I was a jack of all trades, master of none," he said.
"I suppose that helps coming into coaching. You don't necessarily have to be an absolute rock-star athlete yourself to know what makes someone perform."
Cheatley has a political science degree and worked for a time for the Ministry of Justice in Palmerston North, mainly for Family Court judges. He worked under then-Whanganui mayor Michael Laws as a sport and recreation analyst and, as a proud son of the river town, blue-skyed the idea of running for the mayoral chains himself one day.
His knowledge of process and protocol have come in handy as a head coach, but it's a role he was born for as the son of former New Zealand coach Ron Cheatley.
"I've grown up with the sport, and when you grow up with something like that you have a passion for it. All I want is to see New Zealanders succeed in bike racing."
It's an interesting time for track cycling, with the likes of Sam Bewley and Jesse Sergent focussing on their professional road careers following the London Games.
Financial pressures have meant a sort of post-London hibernation for much of the track programme, but the thaw is now on with next year's Commonwealth Games, World Cup seasons for the next two years, world championships and Rio very much on the radar.
Twenty-six riders have been involved in various camps at the SIT Zero Fees Velodrome in Invercargill, which will eventually give way to the new home of the BikeNZ programme in Cambridge.
"I'm excited that we've got all the squads working together again now," Cheatley says.
"It's a real good mix right now, with some really experienced riders, and some good young talent coming through. Three years out from the Olympics that's a good way to be. The pathway is pretty clear - we are a tier-one sport for High Performance Sport NZ, we are an Olympic sport and we have Olympic outcomes. It's not rocket science that we are targeting the Olympics and the other stuff is stepping stones to get there," Cheatley said.
The New Zealand men's sprint group had developed mightily over the past four years and now had five core riders with young riders pushing them over the next 12 to 18 months.
The men's endurance squad has a mix of experience and youth, with riders like 31-year-old double Olympic bronze medallist Marc Ryan and Olympic bronze medalist and world omnium champion Aaron Gate, 22.
However, the women's programme does not look as strong in endurance or sprinting, Cheatley says.
"I'll be honest about that. We need to get some more depth there to keep pushing that squad to strive for better things."
Cheatley has always come across as a jovial, laid-back character.
According to some close to the BikeNZ programme, a more driven streak has come to the fore since taking over the head coach role, but Cheatley doesn't see himself changing a great deal.
"I think it's part of our culture in New Zealand - you know that you have to put the hard work in, but you also know when to switch off and have a bit of fun. It's no different to when I was working with the district council or justice department, if I can have a good old laugh with an athlete or colleague, then that's great, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it if I don't," he says.
"We are there to do a job. It's a big operation now - we've got 30-odd riders and a good dozen staff. You aren't going to get on with everyone, but as long as you can work with them to get the same outcome, that's fine."
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