New Zealand's cycling team will unleash their charging rhino into the Olympic velodrome tonight in the final shot at a second medal on the track.
Simon van Velthooven, 'Rhino' to his cycling mates, lines up in his favoured keirin event on the final day of the track programme with some heightened expectation as the BikeNZ team pursues their stated target of four medals.
The cabinet is reasonably bare to date. The men's pursuiters, who won bronze, are the only ones to reach the podium after Linda Villumsen's fourth in the road time trial. BMX riders Sarah Walker and Marc Willers, realistic medal contenders, will then carry the team's hopes of reaching their target.
Van Velthooven is viewed as a medal hope after he was third across the line in the world championship final in April, then relegated to sixth for interference. The 23-year-old from Palmerston North can call on experience from the cut-throat Japanese pro circuit in 2010, and sharp form at the team's French training base, say team officials.
After finishing fifth with the sprint team, he will step into a cauldron at the heaving Olympic velodrome, where Great Britain's revered cycling knight, Chris Hoy, will shoot for his sixth Olympic gold medal. The noise will be deafening, and Hoy, 36, will take overwhelming favouritism into his final Games event where riders vie for a spot in the six-man final; then it's all on for young and old.
It was more slim pickings yesterday as Shane Archbold couldn't improve on his fifth at the world champs, finishing seventh in the six-discipline omnium.
The proudly mulleted Timaru rider slipped further from contention when he punctured midway through his individual pursuit before being granted a reride. He then gave it all or nothing in the 15km scratch race and faded out.
Archbold finished 18 points off the bronze medal position. Just three points separated the top-three, with Denmark's Lasse Norman Hansen winning gold from France's Bryan Coquard and Great Britain's Ed Clancy. World champion Glenn O'Shea, of Australia, was fifth.
“That's the closest omnium I've ever seen and I've been doing them for 2 years straight,” Archbold said.
“It's the Olympics; everyone's lifted their game and there's a lot of PBs. I didn't ride any PBs; I was stronger in every event. I'm definitely not disappointed with seventh but I know I can do better.”
And it may be the 23-year-old's last crack at the omnium. Archbold said it would not be on the programme at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 so he may have to look for another discipline, potentially on the road.
“I'm going to go home, relax and look at the drawing board. It's another four years until the Olympics. There's only two things I want to do is win an Olympic title and win a world title, so if the omnium's not going to be it I'm going to have to come up with a new toy event,” he said. “I want to go well on the road. I want to be a road rider but nothing is going to happen this year. I'm going to rest, reflect and work on next year.”
And the trademark mullet, over two years in the making, might just remain. “What's there to say? It's the coolest hairstyle I've seen in the Olympic village so I'll definitely take that home as one of my proudest moments. I'd like to see the media come up with a photo better than the mullet in the Olympic village.”
- © Fairfax NZ News