A good, but not a great year for NZ cycling

Cycling - year-ender

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 24/12/2012
Kiwis in action
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
Simon van Velthooven reacts after taking bronze in the men's keirin.
Simon van Velthooven
FAIRFAX NZ
HAPPY HOMECOMING: Cyclist Simon van Velthooven, with his keiren bronze medal.

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BikeNZ high performance manager Mark Elliott sums up New Zealand's year in cycling succinctly - ''it was a year of doing good, but not doing great.''

Like all Olympic sports, cycling's programme was judged by its performance in London where New Zealand won bronze medals on the track in the men's team pursuit and the keirin - through the fast-finishing efforts of Simon van Velthooven - and silver in the BMX with Sarah Walker.

There were also a fifth-placed finish for the women's team pursuit on the track, but it was a fourth-placed finish for Linda Villumsen on the road in the time trial that disappointed those involved in the sport.

''We'll be judged on our Olympic results, which we would have liked to be different colours,'' Elliott said.

''We would have liked to have seen Linda Villumsen retain her 100 percent return on major events. She seems to put herself on the podium every year at the road worlds but for her to miss out on an Olympic medal by 1.8sec, especially when she was leading in the first 25km, was devastating,'' he said.

''Maybe that's a good summary. There was a lot of very close and very good, but not 100 percent delivery to what we know we are capable of.''

The selection of the men's team for the Olympic road race brewed up some controversy as veteran New Zealand professionals Julian Dean and Hayden Roulston both missed out in favour of Greg Henderson and Jack Bauer.

Bauer justified his selection with a 10th-placed finish, while Henderson was forced to withdraw midway through the race because of a stomach upset.

Under 23 rider Michael Vink  won the elite men's national road race in Christchurch to start the year, with runner-up James Williamson awarded the elite title as the leading senior in second place.

The women's race was dominated by triathletes, with Nicky Samuels winning and Kate McIlroy finishing third.

The buildup to the Olympics started well with a strong performance on the track at the world championships in Melbourne in April.

New Zealand finished sixth on the medal table with bronze medals in the 1000m time trial (van Velthooven), the individual pursuit (Westley Gough), the men's team pursuit and men's team sprint and Alison Shanks' world title in the individual pursuit.

''Our world champs in Melbourne was superb, everyone stepped up to the plate there,'' Elliott said.

''I think we had about 80 percent of our team did a PB.''At the world road championships, held in the Dutch province of Limburg in September, Villumsen (Orica-AIS) and Sam Bewley (Orica GreenEdge) won silver and bronze respectively in the team time trial, while Sophie Williamson narrowly missed out on a medal in the junior women's road race.

Elsewhere, Christchurch schoolboy Anton Cooper became the first New Zealand mountainbiker to win a world cross-country championship when he claimed the junior men's title in Austria.

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Invercargill was a successful host of the world junior track championships, where the New Zealand team equalled its best-ever haul of medals with seven silvers and three bronze, but was frustrated at not being able to claim a rainbow jersey.

Unheralded Aucklander Mike Northey, riding for his British-based Node4 team, claimed the Tour of Southland title on the race's final stage into Invercargill.

THE YEAR

A good year for: Simon van Velthooven. The man dubbed ''Rhino'' became one of the leading personalities in New Zealand sport in 2012. He followed up a bronze medal in the 100om time trial at the world champs with a dead heat for bronze in the Olympic keirin final, and then invited the whole of New Zealand to a barbeque at his Palmerston North home.

A bad year for: Julian Dean. A crash in wretched conditions in the Pyrenees on the third stage of the Tour of Spain cost New Zealand cycling's World Tour flagbearer any chance of riding in the Tour de France or London Olympics.

Crystal ball gazing: The men's and women's track sprint programme will continue to grow and should be ready to fire by the time Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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