NZ men's sprint team aiming for top of the podium
The BikeNZ men's sprint team have been on both lower levels of the podium at world championships - now they want to see what the view from the top is like.
Their campaign to claim a world title starts next weekend in Manchester in the opening round of the World Cup, and will peak at February's world championships in Colombia, followed in July by the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Auckland's Ethan Mitchell, the lead out rider for the three-man New Zealand team sprint, is determined to improve on the world championship bronze medal he, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins won last yar and the silver medal they won earlier this year in Minsk.
"These World Cup races are big, but it's all about the lead into world champs in Colombia in February and onto Comm Games. It's a big 2014 season, where we are peaking twice. We are going there to get top of the podium at both of those events. All five of us are pushing each other as hard as we can."
Mitchell, along with Webster and Cameron Karwowski, won a world title in the team sprint at the 2009 junior world championship in Moscow.
His grandfather framed the coveted rainbow jersey for him and every time Mitchell sees it hanging on the wall it reminds him why he gets out of bed in the morning and why he strives so hard.
"It's a pretty amazing feeling and I'm really wanting that senior world title, and I know all the boys feel the same. Each year it gets closer."
When sprinters talk about close, they mean it, with races often decided by the blink of an eye.
"We lost the gold medal to the Germans at the world champs this year by one-hundredth of a second, I think it was. When you are going 7okmh, it's like car racing or motorbike racing, a tenth of a second means everything. The difference between me having a bad start and a good start can be half a second," Mitchell said.
The BikeNZ men's sprint programme is a tight knit bunch.
Mitchell, Webster, Dawkins, Simon van Velthooven and Matt Archibald are the established seniors, although they are now being challenged by some promising youngsters.
"There's a line that says there's no friends in team sprint and it's true because I'm trying as hard as I can to drop [my team-mates], because that's the best way I can go. It's up to them to get on [my wheel] and they are world class at getting on," Mitchell said.
The sprint programme is now under the guidance of former New Zealand sprinter Anthony Peden, who has joined the squad after stints with MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner and Formula One test driver Nicolas Prost and his father Alain - a four-time F1 world champion - with his new motor racing projects.
While Peden has preferred not to do any interviews until after his first assignment with BikeNZ, Mitchell said the Australia-born coach had already made a significant impact.
"It's been a bit different to get used to a new face and a new way of communicating, but we are gelling together really well and a lot quicker than I thought we would," Mitchell said.
"From day one it's been about performance and I think there's some pretty exciting stuff coming up. I'm really excited about this season, I think it's going to bring some big things."
- © Fairfax NZ News