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Big opening night for NZ track cyclists

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 12/04/2017

New Zealand's track cyclists will fire their biggest shots on the opening night of the world championships in Hong Kong.

The defending champion men's team sprint, the men's team pursuit and women's team pursuit are all in action on the opening day of the five-day championships at the Hong Kong Velodrome.

While the pursuit teams undergo qualifying, the sprint trio of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins will undergo their new cut-throat format.

The London 2016 champions must negotiate three rides in less than two hours in an intense evening programme.

The Olympic silver medallists felt comfortable with the format at the recent World Cup in Los Angeles, which they won.

Cycling New Zealand head coach Dayle Cheatley, stressed the Kiwis will be pushing for medals in every event but that the championships are also seen as an important stepping stone.

New talent has deliberately been blooded in some events.

"We have a good number of our Rio Olympians back again but we are also excited with the healthy injection of youth into the squads who will be pressing our more experienced riders towards Tokyo 2020 and beyond," Cheatley said.

"We have events with new formats including the team sprint, team pursuit and omnium, so this is an opportunity to test ourselves against the world's best on how best to prepare for these events."

Cheatley is excited by the potential of 18-year-olds Campbell Stewart and Michaela Drummond and Campbell Stewart, who have dominated at domestic and world junior levels.

"We won't be putting them under too much pressure but allowing them the opportunity to experience a world championship environment.

"They are both outstanding prospects but it does take time to transition from junior to elite ranks."

It is the first time the world championships have been staged in Asia since 1990, when New Zealand earned its first ever women's world championship title after Karen Holliday won the Points Race.

NZ Team:

Women: Endurance - Racquel Sheath, Michaela Drummond, Jaime Nielsen, Kirstie James, Rushlee Buchanan. Sprint - Natasha Hansen.

Men: Endurance - Dylan Kennett, Piet Bulling, Regan Gough, Nick Kergozou, Campbell Stewart, Aaron Gate. Sprint - Eddie Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster, Zac Williams.

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