New Zealand will boast a talented team of top professional cyclists for road racing at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The road squad, announced today by the New Zealand Olympic Committee, is led by five-time world championship medallist Linda Villumsen, double Olympic medallist Hayden Roulston and in-form Trek Factory Racing teammate Jesse Sergent.
Also announced today is a three-strong team to contest mountain bike cross country, led by 2012 junior world champion Anton Cooper.
Five of the six-strong men’s road team are riding for UCI Pro Tour teams including Roulston and Sergent (Trek Factory Racing), Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp), George Bennett (Cannondale) and Greg Henderson (Lotto-Belisol).
Henderson, 37, will be attending his fourth Commonwealth Games to go with four Olympics in a stellar career. He is a former world champion and Commonwealth Games gold medallist on the track, but only once competed in the road race, finishing sixth in Melbourne in 2006.
Roulston, 34, is also attending his fourth Commonwealth Games as well as the Beijing Olympics where he won two medals on the track.
New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith welcomed the athletes to the team. “Glasgow will be an opportunity for these athletes to shine in through tough-contested events,” she said.
“Medals are a target, but so too is vital experience and tracking ahead of Rio 2016 and the Commonwealth Games provide just that.”
Bike NZ High Performance Director Mark Elliot said the the team was expected to perform well at Glasgow. “ It is probably the most experienced men’s team that we have sent to a Games in recent years,” he said. “We’ve got excellent one-day classics riders in Roulston, Bauer and Sergent, and a top sprinter in Greg Henderson. And Sergent is a strong time trial prospect.
“They should be able to position themselves to cover all the scenarios that could develop and play a strong role in the outcome of the race.
“At the same time we have included James Oram, who is only 20 years, but with a tremendous future in the sport.”
Villumsen, a silver medallist at Delhi, is joined by fellow Wiggle Honda pro Emily Collins and the experienced US-based pros Joanne Kiesanowski, who will be attending her third Commonwealth Games to match three Olympics, and Rushlee Buchanan, the London Olympian who won her second national road championship this year. Buchanan will also transfer into the endurance track squad.
“The courses in Glasgow for the time trial and road race will suit Linda Villumsen who has been the most consistent time trial rider in the world for the last five years. And like the men, we have some strong professionals to support her and some excellent finishers if it comes to a sprint,” said Elliott.
While New Zealand won time trial medals to Villumsen and Gordon McCauley in 2010, the medals on the road have been comparatively sparse. Roulston won a silver medal at Delhi four years ago but before that it was Susy Pryde at Kuala Lumpur in 1998 and the 1-2 finish by Mark Rendell and Bryan Fowler at Victoria in 1994.
New Zealand will send a mountain bike team with real promise for the future.
Cooper is still 19 years old and national champion Sam Gaze is 18, while in the women, Queenstown’s Kate Fluker has been selected after only three years in the sport.
Olympian Karen Hanlen is currently working with the BikeNZ medical team on an issue that has limited her performance this summer. She will be considered for selection early next month.
“We have two really exciting young mountain bikers in the men which is very encouraging for the future and if he is healthy and fit, then Anton Cooper is a potential medal chance. Kate is a novice in the women but has real potential and is training and racing hard in Europe while Sam is a brilliant prospect.”
Some of the women’s endurance track squad will cross over to support in the road race, while BikeNZ may add to the women’s track squad before the deadline next month.
Cycling is one of New Zealand’s most medalled Commonwealth Games sports with 82 being won since 1938.
The road and mountain bike team is:
Men’s Road: Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp, Takaka), George Bennett (Cannondale, Nelson), Greg Henderson (Lotto-Belisol, Dunedin); James Oram (Bissell, North Harbour), Hayden Roulston (Trek Factory Racing, Christchurch), Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing, Palmerston North).
Women’s Road: Rushlee Buchanan (United Healthcare, Te Awamutu), Emily Collins (Wiggle Honda, Auckland), Joanne Kiesanowski (Team TIBCO, Christchurch), Reta Trotman (Team Maxx Solar, Christchurch), Linda Villumsen (Wiggle Honda, Christchurch).
Men’s Mountain Bike: Anton Cooper (Cannondale Factory Racing, Christchurch), Sam Gaze (Te Awamutu).
Women’s Mountain Bike: Kate Fluker (Queenstown).
For interviews contact:
021 552 021
BikeNZ High Performance Director
Tel 021 435989