Crashes land Shane Archbold in pursuit team
Two crashes in the past six weeks have created an opening in the New Zealand pursuit team at the Commonwealth Games for Shane Archbold.
Aaron Gate had surgery after breaking his collarbone six weeks ago on the road and then suffered a heavy crash on the track less than two weeks out from the Games to put his involvement in the team pursuit for the opening night at Glasgow's Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in doubt.
Archbold will almost certainly replace Gate for the qualification ride in the only change from the world championship bronze medal-winning team of Marc Ryan, Dylan Kennett and Pieter Bulling.
Gate could still come into contention for the evening medal ride where New Zealand will be hoping to race for gold against either the world champion Australians or a world-class English lineup.
BikeNZ team manager Mark Elliott said Archbold's strong form had provided head coach Dayle Cheatley with the benefit of choice.
''Shane's in the form of his life and with that, it gives us great flexibility when we know how great Aaron Gate can be when he's in the form of his life. Unfortunately with Gatey having crashed, he's not where we know he can be," Elliott said.
''He took a fair bit of wood out of that track and put it into his back and we are still pulling splinters out of him. He's a tough guy and it won't restrict him in any way, shape or form, but it's just when you have little ups and downs like that you don't keep building."
There are no such concerns with New Zealand's world champion team sprint trio of Eddie Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster.
They will go into their first major event since winning their coveted rainbow jerseys in Cali earlier this year and four years on from their silver medal at the Delhi Commonwealth Games.
''We were pretty young and fresh in Delhi," Mitchell said.
''There were two 18-year-olds in the team, and I was one of them - I think four years down the track a lot has happened with us. Our programme has just developed so much over the four-year cycle we've had since Delhi." Cheatley said, despite the setbacks around Gate, he was happy with where he found himself on the eve of the Games.
''The biggest thing with Gatey is he missed a real key block. We were doing some specific work building up the riders and he missed a big percentage of that. Everyone else is fit and healthy. I'm sure if we had the Commonwealth Games in a couple of weeks' time we'd have Gatey at 100 per cent as well, but it's just come a bit early and that's sport."
Archbold is a former world junior championship silver medallist in the team pursuit but his focus had been on the omnium following his silver medal at the 2011 world championships.
The combination of the 31-year-old Ryan and Gate, 23, Bulling, 21, and Kennett, 19, has grown exponentially since 2012, with Archbold having to settle for fifth-man duties.
''They are very, very young guys to be participating at competitions like this but they've already got a bronze medal in the bag at world championships level so to them they've got similar, if not more, experience in teampursuit than I have," Archbold said of Bulling and Kennett.
Even the presence of Sir Bradley Wiggins in an England skinsuit hasn't phased the New Zealand team this week.
''No-one scares us," Archbold said.
''He's been off the track a long time now. He's won the Tour de France, done numerous other things in his career, but what we can do is go out and test a time.