Kiwi track cycling stars take first pedal strokes towards Rio Olympics

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New Zealand’s leading cyclists will put their Commonwealth Games endeavours behind them, as they prepare to take the first steps towards the Rio Olympics at the Avantidrome this month.

Most of the Glasgow medallists will be in action in the first Olympic qualifying event, the Avanti BikeNZ Cup and Avanti BikeNZ Classic from 18-20 September in Cambridge.

The event has drawn entries from Australia, USA, Malaysia, Japan and Canada for the three day event that carries vital qualifying points ultimately towards the Rio Olympics.

While there are challenges from the international competitors, the event will pit Kiwi teammates against eachother as they vie for selection to next month’s important Oceania Championships in Adelaide which leads to selection for the UCI World Cup series beginning in November.

The track riders, who had a three week break following their 11 medal haul in Glasgow, returned to training last week to refocus on the UCI qualifying event.

“As one of the highly ranked Federations, it’s our responsibility to host a UCI qualifying event each year and it’s another excellent opportunity to bring top quality track cycling to this country and to the Avantidrome,” BikeNZ High Performance director, Mark Elliott said.

“We’ve enjoyed an excellent Commonwealth Games campaign but as that chapter closes, we now open a new door towards the Rio Olympics. This event is the first stepping stone, which will determine selection to what will be an important Oceania Championship next month, and performances there lead to the World Championships and ultimately to Rio.

“It all starts in Cambridge this month.”

Olympic track cycling events are more limited than for the Commonwealth Games and with strict limitations on rider numbers.

“There will be real competition within our camp for ultimate selection for Rio. That is what will drive our riders every day in training from now and will be a real motivation at the BikeNZ Classic and BikeNZ Club competitions.

“That will make for an interesting and exciting spectacle.”

The three-day meet comprises mainly sprint competitions over individual sprint and keirin with an omnium contest on the first two days of the BikeNZ Classic.

There is also endurance racing throughout with points, scratch and Madison competition.

World and Commonwealth champions in the team sprint - Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins - will compete with Glasgow time trial medallist Matt Archibald. Fellow Glasgow medallist Simon van Velthooven is in Japan competing in the Keirin league.

Double world champion and Olympic medallist Shane Perkins heads up the Australia sprint team that includes double junior world champion Jacob Schmid and emerging star Emerson Harwood.

New Zealand’s Commonwealth Games medallists Aaron Gate, Dylan Kennett, Marc Ryan and Pieter Bulling will compete in endurance events, with Glasgow medallists Tom Scully and Shane Archbold currently riding for their road teams in Europe.

There is a welcome return for London Olympic medallist Westley Gough, who will compete back of the track after an injury- hit few months, joined by high-flying cousin Regan Gough, who won four medals at the recent junior world championships.

Commonwealth Games riders Stephanie McKenzie, Lauren Ellis, Jaime Nielsen and Georgia Williams will all compete, along with London Olympian Natasha Hansen (Southland) and Otago’s Katie Schofield.

The Australian team is led by former world champion Ashlee Ankudinoff, a strong contender for their team’s omnium spot for Rio.

The morning sessions will run from 10am to 2pm, and finals sessions from 7pm to 10pm.

The programme is:

Avanti BikeNZ Classic, Thursday 18 September:

Morning Session: Elite and Junior Women Sprint (Qualifying, Repechage, Round 1, Quarterfinals, 5th to 8th ride), Women and Men Omnium (Scratch Race), Junior and Elite Men Sprint (Qualifying, Repechage, Round 1, Quarterfinals, 5th to 8th ride), Junior Women Scratch Race.

Evening: Elite and Junior Women sprint (semis and finals), Elite and Junior Men sprint (semis and finals), Women and Men Omnium (Individual Pursuit and Elimination), Elite Men Points Race.

Friday 19 September, morning session: Junior and Elite Women Keirin (qualifying and Repechage), Junior and Elite Men Keirin (qualifying and repechage), Women and Men Omnium (1000m Time Trial), Junior Men Scratch Race.

Evening Session: Junior and Elite Men Keirin (Semis and Finals), Junior and Elite Women Keirin (Semis and Finals), Men and Women Omnium (Flying Lap and Points Race), Elite Men Scratch Race, Elite Women Points Race, Men Madison.

Avanti BikeNZ Cup, Saturday 20 September:

Morning Session: Junior and Elite Women Sprint (Qualifying, Repechage, Quarters, 5th to 8th ride), Junior and Elite Men Sprint (Qualifying, Repechage, Quarters, 5th to 8th ride), Elite women Scratch Race, Elite Men Points Race.

Evening Session: Junior and Elite Women Sprint (Semifinals, Finals), Junior and Elite Men Sprint (Semifinals, Final), Elite Men Scratch Race, Elite Women Points, Junior Men Scratch Race, Men Madison.

CAPTION: Sam Webster (left) and world champion teammate Eddie Dawkins likely to go head to head at Olympic qualifying event in Cambridge. Credit: Guy Swarbrick.
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