Competition high within NZ track sprint team

Last updated 02:35 23/07/2014

Cycle track sprinter Simon Van Velthooven at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

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Simon van Velthooven will forgo the lucrative Japanese keirin league in a bid to break into the New Zealand team sprint lineup for the Rio Olympics.

The 25-year-old has been racing in Japan for the past four years and is an Olympic bronze medallist in the keirin and a world championship silver and bronze medallist in the 1000m time trial, but he also has team sprint aspirations.

Breaking into the world championship lineup of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins is no easy task, as van Velthooven and fellow men's sprinter Matt Archibald well know.

''There's five in the squad and ultimately only three will get to ride in Rio in the team sprint. It all started last year, you've got to be in the mix or you've got no chance to be in there. For sure, the pressure is on,'' van Velthooven said.

''After this year I probably won't go back to Japanese keirin, and [I'll] put my full focus into the team sprint.''

A bronze medalist in the keirin in Delhi four years ago, van Velthooven will also ride the 1000m time trial in Glasgow.

The drive for improvement within the men's sprint programme is ongoing, van Velthooven said.

''As we get older we get stronger in the gym and we can ride bigger gears and just produce more watts, and that's speed. We are all bigger and stronger and faster now.''

After winning bronze in a dead heat for third at the London Olympics, van Velthooven ran into legendary Scottish track cyclist Chris Hoy, who retired after winning a sixth Olympic gold medal in London.

The pair had a beer together and have exchanged emails during the interim.

This week van Velthooven will ride in the velodrome which bears Hoy's name.

''He's got a gold cage down in the pits with a bike in there and a world champs skinsuit, that he can walk in and use any time he wants. It's a pretty cool thing to aspire to, to do so well that you get knighted and have a velodrome named after you for your contribution to the sport.''

A car enthusiast, van Velthooven is hoping to catch up with Hoy after his racing is finished this week, possibly even taking Hoy's sponsored Nissan GT-R for a spin.

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