Fourth rider for women's pursuit

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 16/11/2012

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Track cycling looks set for more changes with the women's team pursuit likely to be expanded to the same numbers as the men some time next year.

Currently the women's team pursuit includes three riders racing over 3000m; men have four riders over 4000m.

BikeNZ high performance director Mark Elliott said change was in the wind.

"At the moment it hasn't been absolutely been set in concrete and we've only seen a couple of bits of paper floating around that that is the intention," he said. "[The International Cycling Union] will confirm the Olympic disciplines formally, as they did in 2009 when they canned Ali's [Shanks] individual pursuit, in around July or August. I think that's when we'll get some clarity then."

The change could have a significant impact on New Zealand teams at Olympic level, with a strict limit on rider numbers meaning the fourth member of the team pursuit for both men and women could also be tasked with riding the multi-event omnium.

"What we are looking at, if it is going to four, there are a number of implications from that. The Olympics are fairly strict on numbers with cycling. You are also looking at the physiology of the athletes we've got coming through and which ones have got good grunt coming off the line, but also good endurance capability."

Under current rules, all three women riders had to finish to record a time, while the men had the luxury of having one rider go out hard early in the event before being dropped in the latter stages.

"What they will be excited about will be that they can take a team of four and know that they can always drop one off the back if they have to, just like the men. They'll be able to apply things a bit more strategically and get the best performance out. I think the fact they didn't have that freedom of dropping a person . . . meant that you had to have three very even, controlled riders to get a really good result."

The women's team pursuit was introduced to the international programme in 2008 and has been dominated at world championship level by Great Britain, who broke the world record and claimed gold at the London Olympics.

The New Zealand team of Alison Shanks, Lauren Ellis and Jaime Nielsen finished a disappointing fifth in London, while their male counterparts claimed a bronze medal.

Meanwhile, Waimate's Dylan Kennett is New Zealand's sole representative in the second round of the World Cup circuit in Glasgow.

He will ride the scratch race tonight and the individual pursuit tomorrow.

nathan.burdon@stl.co.nz

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- The Southland Times

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