THE national cycling team is gearing up for a hectic four-week competitive campaign which will see the unit travel to three countries in the eastern hemisphere as they continue pursuit of Olympic qualification.
The Erin Hartwell-led squad is expected to depart on November 20 en route to Hong Kong, China, where they will line up alongside some of the globe’s top track cyclists for the third staging of the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Cup. This leg rides off from November 29 - December 1 and will see TT represented in the Team Sprint, Individual Sprint and Keirin events.
One week later, the squad, which comprises of two-time Olympian Njisane Phillip, world Flying 200m record holder (9.1s) Nicholas Paul, Keron Bramble, Kwesi Browne and Quincy Alexander, will drape themselves in national colours once more at the fourth UCI World Cup in Cambridge, New Zealand ( December 6-8).
Five days later, the national squad will be hoping to complete their World Cup and Olympic qualification campaign when they travel to Brisbane, Australia (December 13-15) for the tourney’s penultimate stage.
The final leg of the World Cup Series is scheduled for Milton, Canada, in January 2020, but Hartwell remains quietly confident that the team can attain enough Olympic qualifier points to maybe skip the Canadian leg and secure additional time to prepare ahead of the 2020 UCI Track Cycling World Championships (February 26 - March 1).
“We’re putting our best effort into preparation for it,” said Hartwell yesterday. “Some of it depends on how well we go, if we’re (into) medal rounds in Team Sprint each time and ahead of the competition we need to be, for Team Sprint qualification, we could look at a strategy to maybe pull back from that Milton World Cup and focus exclusively on the World Championships, but we have to get through this process first. We hope to leave on November 20 or 21 to give the team a week to adapt to the time and climate change (China). It’s quite demanding to travel those distances. ”
Hartwell, a two-time medallist at the Summer Games (1992,1996), was pleased to reveal that the TT squad has been developing positively over the past couple weeks although several cyclists are still overcoming the flu.
“It’s been quite encouraging that we’ve been having personal bests in training over the past few weeks,” he added. “That’s a natural progression you would expect over long-term periodisation as the team does get better. The guys go through various ups and downs through the process but we’re fortunate to see many improved performances in training and similar exercises to what we’ve run in the past. They are exceeding our expectations.”
The TT coach admitted they are focussing solely on attaining Olympic qualification for the one team and two individual events. Having dominated the western hemisphere over the past year by capturing gold in the Men’s Team Sprint at the Pan American Games and Pan American Championships, Hartwell is determined to secure TT a spot in this event for the first time in the nation’s history.
“We have a two-pronged approach in that Team Sprint is our primary focus but we are looking to back it up with individual events, should Team Sprint not work out for Olympic qualification. We’re making sure that we cover all contingencies. The way that Nicholas has been riding in the individual sprint is also top priority for us. Our first goal is to get through in the Team Sprint. The better we do at the World Cups, we’re going to be in a good spot,” he concluded.