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Sam Bewley (RadioShack) was in the hot seat for much of the prologue and ultimately finished third.
Kiwi’s first priority is in London Olympic velodrome
New Zealand's Sam Bewley has a big year ahead on the track with the London Olympic Games on the horizon. However, the multi-talented rider 24-year-old still has options on the road despite having been left without a team following the merger between RadioShack and Leopard-Trek.
GreenEdge general manager Shayne Bannan confirmed to Cyclingnews that Bewley was in the frame to fill the void in the roster which will occur with the retirement of Robbie McEwen following his final pro race, likely to be the Tour of California in May.
Bewley graduated to the RadioShack squad for the 2010 season having spent 2009 with Trek-LiveStrong. In a neat twist, Bewley was a key lead out man for McEwen in his final race for the American team late in the season, delivering the Australian sprinter to victory in two stages of Circuit Franco-Belge. Bewley was coy when discussing the move with Cyclingnews, saying that his first priority in the new year was the New Zealand track team for the London Games before considering his next move on the road.
"I have spoken to them [GreenEdge] and we're still sorting that out," he explained. "It's going to be my last year on the track and I really want to give London a go.
"Honestly I can't say too much, I don't think it's my place. It's going to be a good team for sure. It's going to be a team that gets results straight away. It looks like a good outfit."
Bewley's contract was up at the end of 2011 and he said "it wasn't totally unexpected" that he failed to make the cut for the merged entity given his strong track focus for 2012.
"There was always going to be people that missed out and I was one of them," Bewley told Cyclingnews. "It's just the way it is. I learnt a lot and developed a lot as a cyclist both physically and mentally."
The Kiwi only switched to racing on the track in 2005, before going on to race as an amateur in Belgium and France with his original focus on mountain bike. Bewley says that he "learnt how to be a professional" with the team and had been educated in the process of training and race preparation as well as diet.
"When I signed with RadioShack two years ago I was still relatively new to the road, I'd only done one year racing with a team outside of the national team so I still had a lot to learn," he explained. "I struggled through the early part of my time with them but I learnt so much. The directors and other riders on the team were really, really helpful."
Aiming to go out with a bang
Having earned Olympic bronze with New Zealand in the team pursuit in Beijing, Bewley and his compatriots will be looking to spoil the expected party between Great Britain and Australia at the London Olympic velodrome. In the early part of the 2011-2012 track season, the Kiwi quartet of Bewley, Marc Ryan, Aaron Gate and Jesse Sergent have been laying down some impressive markers. At November's Oceania Track Championships in Invercargill, the four drilled their final kilometre to set a national record time of 3:55.295 which shattered their previous best by more than two seconds. The current world record in the event was set by Great Britain in Beijing during qualifying, a time of 3:55.202.
"We rode 3:55 at Oceanias and that showed that we can ride those times and that we are going to be a force leading up to London, and then London," Bewley explained. "The last three years has been a cycle towards London and if we can get it right then we've got as good a chance as either of those teams to win I think."
With competition looking tight over the next six months, it's likely that the world mark is likely to be lowered again en route to the Olympic final, something Bewley says he and his teammates are keenly aware of.
"It's going to be fast it's hard to say what time but for sure it's going to be a world record," he said before speculating on the time to beat. "They say 3:50, it's possible. That's pretty fast but it will definitely be a really low 3:50's for sure."
The BikeNZ October training camp in Invercargill revealed that competition for places in the team pursuit squad is set to be just as fierce as the fight for the Olympic podium with 12 riders vying for a spot in the five-man line up. That number is now down to 11 with Hayden Roulston pulling out of the selection mix but it's a long way, and a considerable improvement from the half-dozen available in 2008. Along with Bewley, Sergent, Ryan, and Gate, Wes Gough, Pete Latham, Shane Archbold, Tom Scully, Cameron Karwowski, Jason Allen and Myron Simpson are also up for consideration.
Bewley told Cyclingnews he'd "like to think" he'll make the final cut but is all for the selection fight.
"That pushes the team and the team could almost change day-to-day, that keeps us on our toes and keeps us riding fast."
Adding to Bewley's motivation is the fact that the team pursuit will be the only event he'll compete in, should he be successful.
"I like the fact that when you get a team pursuit right, it's almost a bit of an art form," he explained. "If you ride a good team pursuit and everything goes perfectly, the ride feels so smooth and it almost feels easy to ride so fast and I think it's the same for spectators. Watching four guys go around at 65km/h, one guys swings up the banks and goes onto the back it's a probably a pretty cool event to watch."