New Zealand team named for world championships

Linda Villumsen and George Bennett will lead the New Zealand 14-strong team for the UCI Road World Championships in Florence, Italy later this month.

Villumsen, a four-time medallist at the world championships and the only Kiwi to have won a medal at the elite level, took a break following the London Olympic Games before returning with the Wiggle Honda team. The 28-year-old won the overall at La Route de France, was fifth at the Thuringen Rundfahrt and 14th overall in the Giro Rosa. She is currently leading the Tour of Ardeche after victory in the prologue.

Joining Villumsen in the women's line-up will be her Wiggle Honda teammate Emily Collins, Jo Kiesanowski (Team Tibco) and Reta Trotman who has impressed this season in Europe riding in her debut season for German pro team MaxxSolar, including finishing second in the mountain classification in Gracia Orlova Tour.

"Linda has an outstanding record in the time trial at the world championships and will be gunning to get to the top of the podium this year," said Mark Elliott, BikeNZ High Performance Director.

"She needed the break from the sport after the disappointment of the Olympics and the time out from the rigours of a professional team has done wonders. She has returned fresh and enthusiastic. Her results suggest she will be competitive on this tough road circuit and we have selected a strong team to support her."

Two more riders may be added to the women's squad dependent on results this week.

Meantime, Bennett has had an impressive season for RadioShack Leopard, including a top-10 performance at the USA Pro Challenge. He will be joined by Jack Bauer (Garmin Sharp) and London Olympic medallist Sam Bewley (Orica GreenEdge).

"George is the obvious go-to man for a course like this," said Elliott. "Jack has freshened up after his brilliant effort in the Tour de France and has trained specifically for the road race to support George while Sam will focus on protecting George in the first half of the race."

Bewley will line up with RadioShack Leopard teammate Jesse Sergent in the time trial.

James Oram, currently in his second year for the Bontrager pro team will lead the charge in the under-23 team. He will be joined by European-based Alex Frame (Thuringer Energie) and Dion Smith (Champion Systems) in the road race and national champion Michael Vink, a member of the BikeNZ endurance squad in Europe, in the time trial.

The BikeNZ team is:
Elite men: George Bennett (Radioshack Leopard, road race); Jack Bauer (Garmin Sharp, road race); Jesse Sergent (Radioshack Leopard, time trial); Sam Bewley (Orica GreenEdge, time trial, road race).
Elite women: Linda Villumsen (Wiggle Honda, time trial, road race); Emily Collins (Wiggle Honda, road race), Reta Trotman (Maxx Solar, road race); Jo Kiesanowski (Team Tibco, road race).
Under-23 men: James Oram (Bontrager, time trial, road race), Michael Vink (time trial); Dion Smith (Champion System, road race); Alex Frame (Thuringer Energie, road race).
Junior women: Devon Hiley (road race); Madison Campbell (road race).

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