Cycling medal hopes gear up for Night of Stars

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 24/01/2014

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Can't get to Colombia for next month's Track World Championships?

No problem. New Zealand's best riders will be having their last major race night in Whanganui a fortnight earlier.

Expectations are high, on the back of Tom Scully and Patrick Bevin's win in the Madison at this week's World Cup event in Mexico, that New Zealand will return from Colombia with a healthy haul of medals.

Sam Webster also beat team-mate Eddie Dawkins in the ride-off for third and fourth in the men's sprint in Mexico, while Olympic hero Simon van Velthooven rode strongly in the kilometre time trial and keirin.

National coach Dayle Cheatley only took a a skeleton squad to Mexico, with the rest remaining at home. But most of the squad are expected to front at February 8's Night of the Stars at Cooks Gardens.

The event is the first of its kind in Whanganui for six years and has been hurriedly arranged following a conversation between Cheatley and his legendary father Ron.

Ron Cheatley took New Zealand's track teams to four Olympic Games, as well as guiding riders to Commonwealth Games and world championship medal success over a 20-year span. He can't remember when New Zealand's track talent was so strong and had no trouble selling the Night of the Stars to the Wanganui District Council and community trusts, for an event that will also feature four world championship medallists from Australia.

"They'll all be in top shape, being only two or three weeks out from the world champs," Ron Cheatley said.

"I know Dayle think this is very important to their preparation because you can train as much as you like, but you've got to have a bit of competition. These guys need a bit of racing and they're going to race their pants off."

Ron Cheatley made his name, in part, through guiding Gary Anderson to an Olympic bronze medal.

New Zealand tended to excel in the endurance track events, like the 4000-metre individual pursuit which Anderson rode, in those days and medals at big meets were rare. Now New Zealand's sprint riders are also a major force on the world stage.

Ron Cheatley puts the medals and depth down to the indoor velodromes at Invercargill and Cambridge, which have made Cooks Gardens' outdoor one obsolete.

Increased funding has helped too and Ron Cheatley is confident New Zealand won't just do well in Colombia, but at the Rio Olympics in two years' time as well.

"Obviously I'm not the right guy to talk to. Probably the boy [Dayle] would be best to tell you all about that, but I think he's quite happy with how it's tracking," he said.

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"I know he's looking for a bit more depth in the womens' endurance programme, but the endurance men and sprint men are in good shape."

- Fairfax Media

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