24 Jul 2012


1:15 pm on 24 July 2012

New Zealand is sending its largest ever cycling team to the London Olympics, with 22 representatives. Fifteen athletes will compete in track events - where New Zealand has won all four of its medals.


The men's pursuit team of Jesse Sergent, Marc Ryan, Aaron Gate, Sam Bewley and Westley Gough will be hoping for another podium finish after the 2008 pursuit team, which included Sergent, Ryan, Bewley and Gough, won bronze at the Beijing Olympics.

The women's pursuit team of Alison Shanks, Jamie Nielsen and Lauren Ellis performed well at the 2012 world championships in Melbourne and also have a good chance for a medal.

London is Shanks's second Olympics. She finished fourth in the individual pursuit in Beijing and has switched to the women's team pursuit event for London after the individual pursuit was dropped from the programme. The 29-year-old won a gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi in the individual pursuit.

The men's sprint team is Simon van Velthooven, Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins, while Natashia Hansen will compete in the women's sprint.

New Zealand's three other Olympic cycling medals have come in the men's and women's individual pursuit. This has been replaced at the London Games, along with the points race and the Madison events, with the Omnium - an event consisting of a flying lap, points race, elimination race, individual pursuit, scratch race and time trial.

Joanne Kiesanowski and Shane Archbold will participate in the Omnium.


New Zealand also has strong contenders in the road race with Jack Bauer, who finished 10th at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and Greg Henderson, who has been racing internationally with Team Sky and Lotto-Belisol.

Henderson is competing in his fifth Olympics, having cycled at the 1995, 2000, 2004 and 2008 Games as part of the track team. The 35-year-old has won stages in the Tour of Spain, the Paris-Nice, Tour of Britain, Tour of Catalunya and Tour of California. His best performance was at the Athens Games in 2004, where he finished fourth in the points race.

Linda Villumsen, who competed for her native Denmark at the 2008 Beijing Games, is also a strong medal contender in the road race. She became a New Zealand citizen in 2009 and currently rides for the Australian-owned Orica GreenEdge team.

The 27-year-old claimed silver in the individual time trial at the Delhi Commonwealth Games and came second at the 2011 World Championship time trial. She defeated the Olympic and world champions in the Giro del Trentino in northern Italy in June this year.


This year marks the second time BMX has been included in the Olympic schedule. New Zealand has three representatives at the London Games.

Sarah Walker will be looking to improve on her fourth placing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The 24-year-old has been on the elite BMX scene since 2007 and is a former world champion. She performed well at the 2011 London Test event, finishing second, and managed fifth place at the 2012 UCI BMX World Championships in May - just six weeks after dislocating a shoulder.

Marc Willers is also a strong medal contender, heading into his second Olympics as the fourth-ranked men's BMX rider in the world. He finished in 16th place at the Beijing Games. The 26-year-old has found form over the past two years after moving to California, where he trains with reigning Olympic champion Maris Strombergs and won the London Test event last year.

Kurt Pickard, 21, will also compete in the event. The 2010 New Zealand champion suffered a serious crash racing in Europe and took time off, but returned in 2011 where he made the quarterfinals at the World Championships.


Karen Hanlen rounds out the cycling team as New Zealand's sole representative in the cross-country mountain bike discipline. The 32-year-old only turned to the sport two years ago, but has made a big impact on the world scene with some impressive World Cup placings.


Kurt Pickard, Sarah Walker, Marc Willers (BMX), Karen Hanlen (mountain biking), Jack Bauer, Greg Henderson, Linda Villumsen (road race), Shane Archbold, Joanne Kiesanowski (omnium), Sam Bewley, Aaron Gate, Westley Gough, Marc Ryan, Jesse Sergent (men's team pursuit), Rushlee Buchanan, Jaime Nielsen, Lauren Ellis, Alison Shanks (women's team pursuit), Eddie Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell (men's team sprint and individual sprint), Simon van Velthooven (men's team sprint and keirin), Natasha Hansen (women's sprint and keirin).

Some information sourced from www.olympic.org.nz

Where and when

Track: Events are held at the Velodrome at Olympic Park from 2 August to 7 August.

Road race: Events will take place in London and Surrey on 28 and 29 July and 1 August.

BMX: The BMX Track is next to the Velodrome in the north of Olympic Park. Men's: 8 to 10 August; Women's: 8 August and 10 August.

Mountain biking: The cross-country events will be held at Hadleigh Farm, in Essex. Women's: 11 August; Men's: 12 August.