BikeNZ's investment reaps speedy return
New Zealand's young sprinters have increased expectation levels at BikeNZ HQ following the world track cycling championships in Belarus.
The New Zealand team of five finished the event with three medals - gold to Aaron Gate in the omnium, and silver medals to the team sprint and Simon van Velthooven in the 1km time trial, as well as a fourth placing to Sam Webster in the sprint.
The young sprint quartet, with an average age of 22, moved into the top echelon of sprinting; their silver medal comes after victory in the recent World Cup and suggests they are now a genuine threat in the team sprint.
"The focus was taking a small team away who were all capable of winning medals and they have delivered on that, even exceeded that," BikeNZ high performance director Mark Elliott said.
"From this world championship it proves our sprinters now deserve to be in the position to ride for medals. We spent the last few years developing them to where they can challenge, but now our expectations will be that we can get them into medal positions all the time.
"With the experience they have received from these world championships it will stand them in really good stead in the next three years.
"They have a lot of physiological development to go and we have a really strong sports science and strength and conditioning programme that lays the foundation. Then we have to get that right at the top racing experience.
"We need to do that more often and combine it with the sports science and you just don't know where these sprinters will go in the future."
Elliott was also thrilled with the performance from Gate, which showed the "positive nature of the investment" in the European-based development programme over the last four years.
"We spotted his talent four years ago and he has spent that time doing his apprenticeship riding with top team pursuiters like Marc Ryan and Jesse Sergent," he said.
"Now he has taken that tactical knowledge and that power work we did early on and transferred that across to the omnium.
"The fact he is the world champion is exciting for us. We want to see him grow from that and dominate this discipline and for us it is important that this knowledge he gains can transfer across to the team pursuit."
Webster narrowly missed adding a fourth medal to New Zealand's tally in Minsk, losing the bronze medal ride-off to Frenchman Francois Pervis.
Still, the 21-year-old former junior world champion became the first New Zealand rider to qualify for the sprint finals at the world championships after becoming the fastest Kiwi at sea level in qualifying.
- © Fairfax NZ News