While most cycling attention is on the London Olympics, a group of up-and-coming talent is leaving no stone unturned to reach the top of the world.
The 16-strong BikeNZ junior track cycling team heads overseas in the coming weeks to prepare for the UCI World Championships to be held on home territory in Invercargill on 22-26 August.
The championships at the Southland Velodrome will be the biggest international cycling event held in New Zealand since it hosted the junior worlds in Wanganui 30 years ago.
Many of this team will form a key part of BikeNZ’s track programme looking ahead to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and beyond.
“Right now our primary focus is on London of course, but in behind this is the junior track championships which are not only a massive opportunity to showcase our sport in New Zealand but also a hugely important building block for our next echelon of riders,” said BikeNZ High Performance Director, Mark Elliott.
“They have the opportunity to not only achieve international success at the highest level for their age, but to put their hands up as we prepare towards the 2016 Olympics. Those of them with aspirations of developing professional careers on the road will realise the proven pathway is often out of successful endurance track programmes.”
The full squad completed a successful training camp in Invercargill last month, but national junior coach Ross Machejefski said the approaching winter months made it important to head overseas to gain a solid preparation if the riders are to maximize their opportunities at the world championships.
“In recent times the championships have been mostly in Europe and we have travelled early to get our final preparation,” Machejefski said.
“It’s doubly important to get that preparation with the event in our own country and if we want optimal performances in Invercargill.”
Even with a six-figure investment from BikeNZ, the squad have had to find approximately $7000 each for the training phase.
The male endurance group heads to Wisconsin next month for an initial three week training block with some racing, which has been set up with the help of 2009 world champion Hayden Godfrey.
“Hayden had spent a lot of time in that area during his career and has great contacts there. He has not only helped set-up racing for us and key contacts, but he has agreed to travel with us. His cycling knowledge will be invaluable and a tremendous boost for the squad.”
The female endurance group will hold a weeklong camp at Invercargill in early July before flying out to the USA where they will meet up with the male team to be based at Kutztown in Pennsylvania for a month of training and racing.
“It’s a favourite base for New Zealand cyclists and the women’s Olympic team will be using the town for their build-up. The riding is great there, and it is a hub for a lot of outdoor velodrome racing.”
They return home at the end of July for a week before a final two week camp at Invercargill ahead of the championships.
The sprint squad will join the elite riders Natasha Hansen and Katie Schofield at a camp in Invercargill over Queens Birthday.
Aucklander Paige Paterson will join the elite women in the USA for training and racing in June before returning to join the rest of the sprint squad who will prepare in a two week camp at Rockhampton, Queensland.
They then join up with the full squad for the final preparation camp.
“It’s a big campaign and we have received fantastic support from the families of all riders. It will not only be vital to achieving the best possible performances, it is going to be a tremendous experience for them all.”
Female endurance: Cassie Cameron (Wanganui), Alysha Keith (Dunedin), Racquel Sheath (Auckland), Sophie Williamson (Alexandra), Georgina Wilson (North Harbour).
Female sprint: Kate Dunlevey (Invercargill), Paige Patterson (Auckland), Victoria Steel (Christchurch).
Male endurance: Liam Aitcheson (Alexandra), Tom Beadle (Invercargill), Tayla Harrison (Christchurch), Dylan Kennett (Waimate), Hayden McCormick (Te Awamutu), Hamish Schreurs (Christchurch).
Men’s sprint: Jeremy Presbury (Invercargill), Zach Williams (Auckland).
Staff: Ross Machejefski (head coach), Mark Lucas (female endurance coach), John Rastrick (sprint coach), John Green (team manager), Lynnette Murphy (track manager).