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Mountain biker Gaze gets Rio nod

NZN 9/06/2016

Mountain biker Sam Gaze and BMX rider Trent Jones are the two latest additions to New Zealand's cycling squad for the Rio Olympics.

Glasgow Commonwealth Games champion Anton Cooper and silver medallist Gaze had been battling it out for the sole cross-country spot.

Cooper, the current under-23 world champion, wasn't considered for selection on medical grounds, after illness derailed his recent World Cup competitions.

Gaze, 20, currently leads the World Cup under-23 standings after two wins and a third in the opening three rounds in Australia, Germany and France.

Cycling New Zealand high performance director Mark Elliott said Gaze had developed well over the last 18 months with his Europe-based professional team.

"He's strong and has exceptional speed and when on his game, can match the speed of some of the best elite riders.

"He has had some experience in a Games environment at Glasgow and I'm sure he will perform at an exceptional level in Rio."

Elliott said while the Olympic field will include the best elite riders, it will also be considerably smaller than fields in World Cup competitions, allowing Gaze the chance to showcase his strengths.

New Zealand earned one spot each for men and women for mountain biking at Rio via the Oceania Continental slot.

With Olympic selection criteria requiring riders to show top eight potential, no New Zealand women mountain bike riders were considered for nomination.

Jones, 21, has taken over as New Zealand's leading male BMX rider since the retirement of Beijing and London Olympian Marc Willers.

He has shot up the world rankings to ninth since moving to the hotbed of the sport in the United States 18 months ago, although injury stopped him from competing at the recent world championships.

Elliott said Jones showed huge potential, and was capable of delivering consistently strong performances.

"He has moved forward in the world rankings, and is close to a breakthrough to the top of the sport, which we hope he can achieve in Rio."

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