Invercargill hosts top young cyclists
Wed, 22 Aug 2012 6:46p.m.
By Dave Gooselink
Over 150 of the world's top young cyclists, from 24 countries, have hit Invercargill for the junior world track champs.
It has been 30 years since New Zealand last hosted the big international event, and expectations are high for some record-breaking performances.
The home crowd and home track advantage are on the side of New Zealand's cyclists.
Amongst them is Alexandra's Sophie Williamson, who wants to beat the bronze she won a year ago in the points race at her first world champs.
“You can't just go out and smash it for the first half, you end up paying for it in the second half. That's what happened to me last year, I managed to hold on for a medal, but it wasn't what I was hoping for,” she says.
Organisers are tipping strong competition for the winning rainbow jerseys, with Invercargill’s track rated one of the world's fastest at sea-level.
“We could well see some world class times and hopefully some world class performances,” says Cycling Southland CEO Nick Jeffrey.
New Zealand's under-19 riders are looking to build on the success of the country's senior squad, taking inspiration from their Olympic performances.
Head junior track coach Ross Machejefski says some exciting younger cyclists will be racing alongside some more experienced athletes.
“You know we saw it as an opportunity to really breed some new talent. We've got some exciting young sprinters coming through, and also we had six athletes back from last year to bring some experience back.”
Traditional rivals Australia are already turning heads at the track, with their distinctive bleached-blonde hairstyles now a decade-long tradition for the junior squad.
Australian team captain Jack Cummings says it helps with team spirit.
“I don't know, it's just become a bit of a thing of the Aussies dying the hair. It sort of brings everyone together and sort of shows the Aussie team that bondage that all the boys have.”
The Kiwi boys have died their hair black in competition, and will line up against Aussie tonight in the ride-off for gold in the team pursuit.
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