Cyclist Aaron Gate aims to 'thrive' on pressure
Kiwi track cyclist Aaron Gate concedes he won't be able to slip under the radar this time around at the world championships in late February.
The 23-year-old Auckland rider produced a stunning performance at last year's world championships in the Belarusian capital of Minsk to win gold in the omnium, the gruelling six discipline event raced over two days.
It was a surprising result from Gate, who was competing in his first omnium at international level.
Gate, who was a member of the New Zealand team pursuit, who took bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, sealed the omnium title after a frantic finish, where he took out first place in the final event, the 1km time trial. He overcame two of the pre-event favourites, defending Australian world champion Glenn O'Shea and Olympic champion Lasse Norman Hansen of Denmark.
It was just the second time a New Zealander had won an omnium world title after Christchurch's Hayden Godfrey achieved the feat in Manchester in 2008.
Even 10 months on from his triumph, Gate said it was still hard to believe what he had accomplished. He admitted he would be a wanted man at the world championships in Cali, Colombia, which run from February 26 to March 2, but was excited about the chance to go back-to-back.
"It's still pretty surreal to have that world title. Now there's the pressure to go back and try and defend it. That's the main goal for almost the whole season," Gate said.
"There's the inevitable pressure that a defending champion is always going to have. Hopefully I can thrive on that and make the most of it and get the title."
Gate will be one of the star attractions at the Canterbury track cycling carnival, which will be held at the Denton Park velodrome tonight and tomorrow.
A talented cast of cyclists has been assembled for the meet, including New Zealand representatives Eddie Dawkins, Matt Archibald, Marc Ryan, Simon van Velthooven, Dylan Kennett, Shane Archbold and Natasha Hansen.
Gate will not be heading to the final round of the World Cup in Mexico later this month, instead opting to focus on his own individual training and get some kilometres under his belt on the road.
He last raced at Denton Park two years ago and said it would be nice to get out on the track without having to worry about the usual pressure of an elite competition.
"It's always fun to just go and do a bit of racing with mates and just enjoy trying to hurt each other on the bikes. It's something you look forward to on the calendar."
Gate is expected to feature in the team pursuit and points race at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, which begin in late July. He finished fifth in the 40km points race four years ago in Delhi and was determined to improve on that effort and push for a medal.
New Zealand won nine medals on the track in Delhi, including a gold from Alison Shanks in the women's individual pursuit, and Gate was confident the Kiwi contingent could achieve an even larger haul in Scotland.