Year-ender: Gate's win highlights NZ cycling in 213

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2013
Aaron Gate
Guy Swarbrick
CHAMP: Aaron Gate celebrates his gold medal.

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A world title for omnium rider Aaron Gate and Auckland's hosting of the world BMX championships were the highlights for New Zealand cycling in 2013.

New Zealand produced three medals with a five-man team at the world track championships in Minsk, Belarus in February, with Gate's victory in the six-event omnium the obvious standout.

The men's team sprint lineup of Sam Webster, Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins claimed silver, while Simon van Velthooven backed up his keirin bronze medal at the London Olympics with silver in the 1000m time trial, a non-Olympic event.

Webster became the first New Zealander to make it through to the medal rounds of the individual sprint, eventually having to settle for fourth place.

More than 2000 riders from 37 countries converged on Auckland for the world BMX championships staged indoors at Vector Arena.

While there were criticisms over the tightness of the track, international officials praised New Zealand's hosting of the event.

New Zealand enjoyed its most successful world championship with Kiwi riders claiming 12 world titles and another 26 podium places.

The majority of the success came in the Challenge age group classes, but there were positive signs at the elite level too, with Marc Willers finishing second in elite men - his best world championship result - and Hannah Sarten claiming a bronze medal in junior women.

Olympic silver medallist Sarah Walker was hampered by a broken arm going into the event and then suffered a crash during training and was unable to race competitively.

In mountainbiking, Anton Cooper stepped up to the under-23 cross country ranks this year, and returned from a serious illness to record his first World Cup victory in Canada.

Cooper, just 19, was fourth in the world championships in South Africa, zooming through the field to be seven seconds from the podium, while London Olympian Karen Hanlen was 22nd in the elite women's race.

Wanganui professional Sam Blenkinsop was just 0.4secs off the bronze medal in the elite men's downhill. The Lapierre International rider is the only Kiwi male to win a world championship medal after placing third two years ago in France.

On the road, Linda Villumsen was the best of the New Zealand contingent at the world championships held in Florence, Italy.

She won a silver medal in the time trial and was sixth in the road race, despite suffering from a heavy cold. It was the fifth straight world championship time trial medal for the 28-year-old.

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Sam Bewley and Jack Bauer rode for George Bennett in the 272km men's race, but none of the trio were able to complete a gruelling race which was beset by torrential rain.

Earlier in the year Bauer was forced out of his first Tour de France after crashing twice on stage 19, while Greg Henderson, who was riding the race for the second time after making his debut in 2012 at the age of 35, featured as a lieutenant for German sprint ace Andre Greipel in the Lotto-Belisol team.

History was made in May when Hayden Roulston, Bennett and Jesse Sergent all lined up for the Radioshack team in the Giro d'Italia.

In January's national championship road race, which featured all of New Zealand's top professionals, Roulston claimed the national title in Christchurch, from Bennett, with James Oram, who would go on to win the Tour of Southland in November, third.

The event was highlighted with the final appearance before retirement of New Zealand's most celebrated road cyclist, Julian Dean.

TOP PERFORMANCES

TRACK: Aaron Gate, pictured, wins New Zealand cycling's only elite world title for 2013 with victory in the omnium at the world championships in Belarus.

BMX: Marc Willers finishes second in the elite men at the world BMX championships, hosted in Auckand's Vector Arena.

MTB: Former junior world champion Anton Cooper steps up to the under 23 class and takes his maiden World Cup win in Canada.

ROAD: Linda Villumsen claims a fifth-straight time trial medal at the world championships in Italy, and finishes sixth in the road race.

 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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