Coach looks for world class performances at New Zealand track championships

Alison Shanks starts her pursuit final.

Alison Shanks starts her pursuit final. (Image credit: Greg Chang)

BikeNZ coach Tim Carswell is expecting world class performances and some major battles from leading riders in the RaboPlus New Zealand Championships that begin in Invercargill on Monday, March 2.

The major incentive is selection in the BikeNZ team for next month's UCI World Championships in Poland which is a major stepping stone towards the 2010 Commonwealth Games and ultimately the 2012 London Olympics.

New Zealand has qualified riders for virtually all events at the upcoming world championships but with a limit of 13 riders there will be real competition for selection in the week-long championships at the ILT Velodrome.

The focus is expected to go on the pursuiters with Beijing World Cup gold medallists Alison Shanks and Jesse Sergent likely to come up against some strong competition, especially in the women's division where some upcoming junior talent and success from the recent Power to Podium programme has unearthed some exciting potential.

"The women's programme is especially exciting. It's very new at the international level and we have quite a number of talented riders especially out of our Power to Podium programme," said Carswell. "The development has been pretty rapid."

He said that up to a dozen women will be pushing for qualification into the top four in the individual pursuit, and also for places in the women's team pursuit, which also picked up a gold medal at the recent World Cup.

Alison Shanks is the standout, but will face competition from fellow team pursuiters Kaytee Boyd and Lauren Ellis. Other contenders will include Serena Sheridan, rowing convert Jaime Nielsen and Laura Thompson in addition to talented young riders such as 2008 junior world medallists Gemma Dudley, Sequoia Cooper and Cathy Jordan.

Beijing Olympian Catherine Cheatley, missing from the championship with injury, will also be a prime contender for selection.

Jesse Sergent will find competition from his fellow pursuit team members Wes Gough, Sam Bewley, Marc Ryan and Peter Latham, who has made a rushed trip home after competing in the Tour of California. The men's squad will compete in the team pursuit as a unit, where they are aiming to go under the four minute barrier on home spoil for the first time.

Omnium world champion Hayden Godfrey, who won gold at the Beijing world cup in the scratch race, will be aiming at building up for Poland.

The sprinters will likely be led by Simon Van Velthooven, Eddie Dawkins and Natasha Hansen.

In the absence of former world champion Greg Henderson and double Olympic medallist Hayden Roulston, a plethora of emerging talent, including the likes of Jason Christie and Shane Archbold, will be aiming at success in the scratch and points races, while several talented female riders will head to Invercargill following the Tour of Wellington road race.

The sprinters are in action on Monday, with the men's points race at night, the sprints are decided on Tuesday, the individual pursuit on Wednesday, time trial and women's points race Thursday, Team sprint and women's team pursuit on Friday and the keirin, men's team pursuit and scratch races on Saturday.

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