New Zealand finalise 19-rider Rio Olympic squad

George Bennett and Linda Villumsen named as road riders

New Zealand head will to the Rio Olympic Games next month with a 19-rider team to contest the four different cycling disciplines. Current time trial world champion Linda Villumsen is the sole woman selected for the road race the time trial, with LottoNL-Jumbo's George Bennett the one man for the road race despite New Zealand qualifying for two places.

Team sprint world champions Eddie Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster have all been confirmed in the track squad, along with sprinter Natasha Hansen. The track endurance squad includes 2015 world champions Piet Bulling, Regan Gough, and Dylan Kennett, with Aaron Gate and Beijing medallist Hayden Roulston also selected.

"The athletes confirmed are a very strong group, considering both results in recent years and current form. To welcome these riders into the Olympic Team is a great value add for New Zealand just 27 days out from Rio," New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith.

"We wish the eight women and eleven men named today all the very best in the final run up to the Games and know they can take confidence from several world championship titles and exceptional form across the board in recent years."

Cycling New Zealand head coach Dayle Cheatley explained the men's track endurance squad impressed him during the selection process and expects a good showing in Rio, eight years on from the team pursuit squad winning bronze in Beijing.

"The competition within this squad has been exceptional as they have pushed each other every day in training," said Cheatley. "Both of the guys to miss out would have done us proud and still have big futures in the sport.

"I can't say enough about the efforts of Hayden Roulston, who gave up a career on the road to realise his dream of completing his career back on the track. After eight years away, the sport had moved on and he has worked tirelessly on the bike and been an invaluable leader off it."

Current national road and time trial champion Rushlee Buchanan will compete on the track in Rio, with her UnitedHealthcare teammate Villumsen to use the road race for preparation for the time trial. In 2012, Villumsen was two seconds off the bronze medal against the clock.

"Linda has been preparing well for her United Healthcare team under the direction of her personal coach Marco Pinotti, and has produced some encouraging performances," said Cycling New Zealand Director of High performance, Mark Elliott. "The course in Rio is certainly more suited to her skills than was the case in London and we are leaving no stone unturned in her preparations."

Recently crowned U23 world champion Sam Gaze leads the mountain bike team while Trent Jones has been selected for the men's BMX. 

The New Zealand squad for the 2016 Rio Olympics:

Track Female: Rushlee Buchanan, Lauren Ellis, Natasha Hansen, Jaime Nielsen, Olivia Podmore, Racquel Sheath, Georgia Williams.

Track Male: Piet Bulling, Eddie Dawkins, Aaron Gate, Regan Gough, Dylan Kennett, Ethan Mitchell, Hayden Roulston, Sam Webster. Reserve: Zac Williams.

Road: George Bennett, Linda Villumsen.

Mountain Bike: Sam Gaze.

BMX: Trent Jones. 

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