The New Zealand Olympic Committee has today named a strong team, including Pro Tour stars Greg Henderson and Hayden Roulston along with their current world championship medallists, for the cycling team to contest the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
The team will be the maximum allowable with 26 riders named today with one to be added while selectors expect that some track riders will be needed to cover on road events.
The men’s road squad is headed by Henderson (Team Sky) and Roulston (HTC Columbia) who are the most experienced campaigners in the team with 11 Commonwealth and Olympic Games and eight medals between them.
They will be joined by national road champion Jack Bauer (Wellington) while highly experienced Aucklander Gordon McCauley will ride the time trial in which he won a bronze medal at Melbourne in 2006.
New Zealand has not won a road race medal at the Commonwealth Games since the gold-silver double by Mark Rendell and Bryan Fowler in 1994 in Canada.
New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary general and Commonwealth Games Team selector Barry Maister is looking forward to a competitive and exciting games. “We’re delighted to be fielding a team of this calibre. The Commonwealth Games are an important event to New Zealand cyclists and Delhi will provide the team with some critical performance testing as they build for the London Olympic Games.”
The women’s road team is also centred on two well performed professionals in Danish-born Linda Villumsen and Beijing Olympian Cath Cheatley.
Villumsen rides one of the top two women’s teams in the world in HTC Columbia team. She was third in the time trial at the world championships last year and fifth in the road race at Beijing before switching her allegiances to New Zealand this year. Cheatley is a former world track championship medallist now racing in the USA for Colavita Baci pro team where she is currently leading the US National series.
Cambridge rider Melissa Holt makes a return to focus on the individual road race time trial where she is the three time national champion and finished fourth in Melbourne.
The last kiwi female to claim a road race medal was Susy Pryde who won silver at Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
“Both road squads are very strong, one of the strongest overall that we have taken overseas to a Commonwealth Games,” said BikeNZ High Performance Director, Mark Elliott.
“The road race course in Delhi is mostly flat and it will take a real team performance if we are to cover breaks and position our best riders with a chance if it is a sprint finish.”
The track team is based around the successful contingent that won a record four medals at this year’s world championships in Copenhagen as well as an exciting and burgeoning sprint squad.
The men’s endurance track group features world pursuit silver medallist Jesse Sergent and his bronze winning men’s pursuit squad with Sam Bewley, Westley Gough, Marc Ryan and Peter Latham.
The 2008 world pursuit champion, Alison Shanks will lead the women with world points race silver medallist Lauren Ellis, former world junior medallist Gemma Dudley and Cambridge rider Jaime Nielsen. There is also some quality endurance and pursuit riders to bolster the ranks including Rushlee Buchanan and Joanne Kiesanowski, both based with pro road teams in the US, and Kaytee Boyd, training in the US with the track group.
This trio also has the pedigree to ride in support of the road team, with Buchanan the current national road champion, Boyd a former European based pro and Kiesanowski one of the best sprint finishers on the road.
There is excitement with the inclusion of a full men’s sprint squad for the first time. The youthful group is headed by Southland’s Eddie Dawkins, 21, who was fifth at the world championships in the Kilo Time Trial and joined with 2009 triple world junior champion Sam Webster and Adam Stewart to place fifth in the team sprint.
“We will look to further develop our track squad on the world stage. This is an important stepping stone for then and a real opportunity for this very young sprint group,” Elliott said.
“Overall it’s a strong squad. The Commonwealth Games is a vital part of our development and we have a number of young riders having their first taste of a multi-sport event at this level, as well as some very experienced and proven professionals who remain passionate about representing their country,” Elliott said.
“The Commonwealth countries are exceptionally strong and this will be a world class event with the likes of Australia, Canada and Great Britain, who will be potentially stronger as they break down to the home countries for Delhi.
“While there are a handful of UK riders opting for the European Championships instead, have no doubt that this is a very, very strong competition.
“We would like to think we can match our performances from the last two Commonwealths on the track and with 16 years since the last road race medal, it would be nice to break that cycle.”
Many of the road team are expected to have a final shakedown at the world championships near Melbourne a week before their race in Delhi while the track team will prepare from September in Bordeaux when a final event selection will take place.
The New Zealand Cycling Team to the Delhi Commonwealth Games is:
Track: Shane Archbold (Timaru), Sam Bewley (Rotorua), Eddie Dawkins (Invercargill), Westley Gough (Waipukurau), Peter Latham (Te Awamutu), Ethan Mitchell (Auckland), Marc Ryan (Timaru), Jesse Sergent (Feilding), Myron Simpson (Auckland), Adam Stewart (Christchurch), Simon Van Velthooven (Palmerston North), Sam Webster (Auckland).
Road: Jack Bauer (Nelson), Greg Henderson (Dunedin), Gordon McCauley (Auckland), Hayden Roulston (Christchurch). One to be added.
Track: Kaytee Boyd (Waiuku), Rushlee Buchanan (Te Awamutu), Gemma Dudley (Levin), Lauren Ellis (Hinds), Joanne Kiesanowski (Christchurch), Jaime Nielsen (Hamilton), Alison Shanks (Dunedin).
Road: Catherine Cheatley (Wanganui), Melissa Holt (Cambridge), Linda Villumsen (Auckland)