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New Zealand cyclists will look to experiment in their first competition on the new London Olympic Velodrome this week.
The BikeNZ men’s team pursuit, without key rider Jesse Sergent, will likely take the opportunity to tinker with their riding order at this week’s UCI World Cup in London.
In-form 21-year-old Aaron Gate has come of age over the last year and is likely to move to the strong-man role at number two as Beijing Olympian Sam Bewley rotates to Sergent’s number four seat.
Waipukurau’s Westley Gough comes into the quartet at number three leaving the experienced Marc Ryan in his usual starting spot.
“With Jesse away with his professional road team it is an opportunity to experiment a little,” said BikeNZ High Performance Director, Mark Elliott.
“Our major focus is April’s world championships in Melbourne as the key target before the final push to the London Olympics, so this represents our only real chance to look at some things a little.
“Roles within a team pursuit are vital with the No 2 and No 4 riders often taking the crucial bigger turns.”
The men’s team pursuit face an unusual schedule with qualifying on Friday morning (NZ time) but the medal ride for the top four teams is not until Monday.
“It’s a pretty unusual situation. We presume it’s driven by marketing for crowds but it’s totally different to the usual programme where we would ride the qualifying in the morning and medal ride that night.
Elliott said the squad has settled well after working through jet lag although mildly surprised at the lack of precise finishing on the Olympic track.
“It is definitely not as smooth and well finished around the joints as we had expected and we have found the odd splinter in places. The riders said Invercargill took some time to bed-in so maybe that is the case here. But right now it’s not as smooth as the veldrome track at Invercargill.”
The men and women team pursuit qualifying is the only action on the opening session on Friday morning (NZ time) ahead of a full day of finals on Saturday comprising women’s competition in the team pursuit, team sprint and scratch race while the men will contest the points, team sprint, kilo and the first day of the Omnium.
The omnium will feature Timaru’s Shane Archbold, the world championship silver medallist, who has prepared for London with some arduous racing on the track around Europe, including more than 150km of racing at Copenhagen at one meet.
The BikeNZ team is:
Endurance, men: Marc Ryan (Timaru), Sam Bewley (Rotorua), Aaron Gate (Auckland), Westley Gough (Waipukurau), Shane Archbold (Timaru). Coach: Tim Carswell.
Women: Alison Shanks (Dunedin), Jaime Nielsen (Hamilton), Lauren Ellis (Hinds), Joanne Kiesanowski (Christchurch). Coach: Dayle Cheatley.
Sprint, men: Eddie Dawkins (Invercargill), Ethan Mitchell (Auckland), Sam Webster (Auckland), Simon van Velthooven (Palmerston North). Coach: Justin Grace.
Women: Natasha Hansen (Invercargill), Katie Schofield (Dunedin). Coach Stu MacDonald.