Auckland sprinter Sam Webster says the New Zealand track cycling team will be keeping their powder dry in the opening UCI World Cup meet starting in Manchester on Saturday (NZ time).
The 22 year old, fourth in the world in sprint and part of the silver-medal winning team sprint at the world championship, has arrived in Manchester as part of a 10-strong New Zealand team taking on 54 nations in the three-day competition.
Webster is likely to be named in the line-up for the team sprint and individual sprint competitions, and while in strong form, like most riders this weekend, he is looking further ahead in the season.
“The build-up has gone quite well and everyone has shown some quite good form although we are not looking to come here with all guns blazing,” Webster said. “It is the start of a long season and we have a lot of racing coming up in the next five weeks although I think we are going to be very, very competitive here as well.
“All the races are still very much important and every time we line up we want to win. But in this block of racing, we have a Grand Prix in Invercargill which has qualifying points and is basically the start of our Olympic campaign. Then we have the Oceania Championships a few days after that and then we have another World Cup in Mexico in early December.
“So this block is quite important to make sure we are executing our process and we are turning up to race hard and smart. And if things don’t go to plan then we assess and evaluate from there.”
Webster said that most teams are at a similar stage of development with main focus on February’s world championships and then the Commonwealth nations have to reset their goals for Glasgow.
“I think everyone is turning up here with some solid form but they are not going to be showing their full hand just yet.”
He believes the six countries comprising Germany, hosts Great Britain, France, Russia, Australia and New Zealand will likely be in the running in the team sprint.
New Zealand’s sprint squad of five riders – Webster, Ethan Mitchell, Eddie Dawkins, Matt Archibald and Olympic medallist Simon van Velthooven – are no longer the kids on the block on the world scene.
They will likely lead the way for the New Zealand team along with world champion Aaron Gate who will contest the omnium. That leaves Timaru’s Marc Ryan as the sole survivor from the London Olympic medal-winning endurance squad to lead a new-look and youthful team pursuit combination.
Webster believes the strong internal competition is the key to the sprint development within the Kiwi ranks.
“It’s our biggest strength. When we are vying for a position to see who rides in the team sprint, for instance, then ultimately the best team that New Zealand can put forward will be racing. That is one of the really good things to ensure there is no complacency.
“Everyone is always pushing really hard. Everyone wants to be that person selected and therefore everyone trains harder, prepares their best, makes sure their nutrition is optimal so that we come out of it as better athletes and that the best riders are put forward to ride for New Zealand.”
Webster said the Manchester velodrome, the home track for Great Britain Cycling, should offer super-quick times.
“I definitely think this is a sub 10 second track. It has shown that it is very quick and shown it can be sprinted on very well and makes for some good match racing as well.”
But the former triple junior world champion is not about to predict what he will be capable of when he contests the individual sprints.
“I am not going to say what time I think I am capable of. I am just going to go out there and give it a good crack.”
The opening day is shaping up as a huge one for New Zealand with the team sprint, team pursuit and Gate in the first day of the omnium.