BikeNZ head coach Tim Carswell faces a tough job to make his final team selections ahead of the UCI World Track Cycling Championships that begin in Copenhagen overnight Wednesday (NZ time).
Carswell said competition for places has been intense with little separating individuals in the New Zealand team with he and his fellow coaches Dayle Cheatley and Justin Grace facing a task none of them enjoy.
They are expecting white hot competition this week with the key superpowers of Great Britain, Australia and hosts Denmark all boasting impressive squads.
One selection that will be automatic for the opening day of competition will be Alison Shanks who will defend her world crown in the 3000m individual pursuit. She will come up against a raft of talent led by Great Britain’s Wendy Houvenaghel, the Beijing silver medallist and second to Shanks in last year’s gold medal ride.
The youthful New Zealand team sprint combination will also be in action on the first day, with the final three riders proving a distinct headache for selectors from the squad of world junior champions Sam Webster and Ethan Mitchell, national champion Eddie Dawkins, keirin star Simon Van Velthooven and Commonwealth Games rep Adam Stewart.
Mitchell 19, Webster 19, and Dawkins 20, set a new national mark of 44.632 in February, which would have earned them a top-six effort at last year’s world championships, a feat that would be satisfying this week for such a young group.
“The team has settled in well here. It’s a bit of a major exercise getting everything unloaded and set-up, but the track sessions have been very good since we have arrived,” Carswell said.
“It is definitely going to be our toughest job to make the final decisions on who will start in the team pursuits, team sprints and some of the individual events because there is so little separating the riders.”
Carswell said he is expecting tremendous competition at these world championships.
“Everyone is here. Many of the medallists from Beijing who bypassed last year’s worlds are back in Copenhagen including the likes of Chris Hoy.
“We’ve taken the chance to check out some of the other training sessions and the pursuits in particular, are going to be very, very close between the top teams. They all look very impressive.”
Carswell said he is unlikely to experiment with saving a key rider for the medal rides in the pursuits.
“We have to nail our best time in the morning qualifying. We won’t even concern ourselves about the medal rides until we have made them. So we will have our best combination out there in both the men and women.”
He is impressed with the track at Copenhagen, which has been resurfaced for the championships.
“It seems quite warm in here and hopefully that temperature will remain up and we will see some fast times.
“The team are raring to go and will put it all on the line here.”
The team is:
Men: Sam Bewley (Rotorua), Eddie Dawkins (Invercargill), Wes Gough (Waipukurau), Peter Latham (Te Awamutu), Ethan Mitchell (Auckland) Marc Ryan (Timaru), Tom Scully (Invercargill), Jesse Sergent (Feilding), Myron Simpson (Auckland), Adam Stewart (Christchurch), Simon Van Velthooven (Palmerston North), Sam Webster (Auckland).
Women: Rushlee Buchanan (Te Awamutu), Gemma Dudley (Levin), Lauren Ellis (Hinds), Jaime Nielsen (Hamilton), Alison Shanks (Dunedin).
Staff: Tim Carswell (head coach), Dayle Cheatley (women’s coach), Justin Grace (sprint coach), Craig Adair (manager), Craig Palmer and Kat Phillips (sports science), Mark Hollands and Rebecca Adams (physiotherapists), Dale Hollows and Chris O’Connor (mechanics).