BikeNZ names largest team for track world championships

New Zealand will send their largest team ever to next month's UCI World Track Cycling Championships in Melbourne.

The team, announced today by BikeNZ, will comprise 20 riders, likely to be the biggest team of any country to contest the five-day event at the Hisense Arena on 4-8 April.

It is the first time that New Zealand has fielded riders to contest all four categories - male and female endurance and sprint.

The team, currently training at the Invercargill Velodrome, are keen to build on their strong medal winning performances over the last three years. Since 2009 BikeNZ has won 11 medals at the world championships, the same number earned over the previous 38 years.

While the team is focussed firmly on success in Melbourne, they have a weather-eye on July's London Olympics and beyond.

"The size of the team is largely because of their performances in the World Cups and the Oceania Championships where we have qualified a record number of spots," said BikeNZ High Performance Director Mark Elliott.

"Because the championships are in such close proximity to us, then it was an ideal opportunity to ensure we filled all of the places that we had qualified in, and in that respect we have the chance to look a little to the future with some of the selections. For a number of riders, these world championships are their pinnacle event.

"The world championships are always a decisive target for our riders and we want to come home with world class performances. The world championships are ideally-placed for us to target as our first peak of the year, and then re-set for London. Our coaches had always set these world championships as an important litmus test of our progress towards the London Olympics.

"Some of our riders are still gunning for qualification for London, so they will be all guns blazing.

"And we are also competing in some of the traditional world championship events that are not part of the Olympic programme."

There are no major surprises in the team, although the championships will clearly still provide a competitive environment towards Olympic selection. There are five team pursuiters named for Melbourne, not including the leading rider Jesse Sergent who is unavailable with commitments to his professional road team.

The newcomers into the men's team include Christchurch teenager Alex Frame, who won two medals in last year's junior world championships in Moscow, and big Southland sprinter Matt Archibald who was blooded in the World Cup this year.

The strong women's endurance team will be out to build on the strong performances from the current World Cup season.

There's excitement about the rapid development of the women's sprint combination of former Cantabrian Natasha Hansen, now based in Invercargill, and Dunedin's Katie Schofield who are pushing for Olympic qualification off these World Championships.

The team will leave for Melbourne next week.

The team is - 
Female endurance: Rushlee Buchanan, Gemma Dudley, Lauren Ellis, Jo Kiesanowski, Jaime Nielsen, Alison Shanks.

Male endurance: Shane Archbold, Sam Bewley, Alex Frame, Aaron Gate, Westley Gough, Peter Latham, Marc Ryan.

Male sprint: Matt Archibald, Eddie Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell, Simon Van Velthooven, Sam Webster.

Female sprint: Natasha Hansen, Katie Schofield.

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