‘Confident’ Para cycling team returns home
- New Zealand Para cyclists return home from competing in two World Cups:
- The UCI Para Cycling Road World Cup in Elzach (Germany);
- The UCI Para Cycling Road World Cup in Ostend (Belgium).
- Across the campaign the New Zealanders achieved top ten finishes, including:
- Paralympian Nicole Murray won her first road racing GOLD in the Women’s C5 Time Trial.
- Paralympian Eltje Malzbender won FOUR SILVERS – one for each of her races in the T1 classification.
- Coach Damian Wiseman describes the campaign as “really positive”, placing everyone who competed in a strong position for selection for the World Championships in August.
New Zealand Para cyclists return home happy and with a confidence boost from their success against big fields of their peers in two European World Cups. Coach Damian Wiseman explains:
“It’s the first big international event we’ve been able to get to outside the Paralympic Games since Europe in 2019. How the Para athletes adapted to the racing has been great – we’ve put them into really big fields of their peers. That’s difficult in NZ. To be at the front of those fields… it helps to build that confidence and reassurance that we’re on the right track. It allows them to feel confident that the work they have been doing is correct.”
The final Road Race in Elzach was a tricky course, through the centre of the town of Elzach followed by a hill. But the New Zealanders were prepared for it and expecting the technical load. It worked to their favour: every Para cyclist improved their finishing position compared to the previous week in the Ostend Road Race.
Coach Wiseman says:
“We were able to use it to build on what we had in Ostend last week. Everyone put a big foot forward on a more challenging course. Across the board everyone stepped up.”
Paralympian #213 Sarah Ellington hammered it off the line to finish 4th in the C2 class. Sarah, who lives in Greymouth, battled hard for the podium position, finishing just six hundredths of a second behind Yvonne Marzinke of Austria who won bronze. She takes away learnings from these races that she can implement into her training in the next couple of months, working towards the Road World Championships in August.
Paralympian #222 Nicole Murray comes away from the campaign not only with her first road racing gold medal, but also with the confidence that she fits among the top riders in her classification. Her results prove that she is one of the riders to beat in C5 – and it is a strong classification.
Paralympian #220 Eltje Malzbender had previous strong finishes in Ostend. In this World Cup, new racers joined the competitive group at the top of that field. Eltje wasn’t discouraged, however, impressing her coach and manager by taking the new competition as a drive to perform. She comes away with a fantastic collection of silver medals from all four of her races on the campaign.
Two weeks in Europe have been hugely valuable for Rio 2016 Paralympian #196 Stevo Hills. Racing in the competitive Men’s T2 classification, this was Stevo’s comeback into racing after a COVID-induced 3-year break from international competition. The races in Europe reminded him what it’s like in that field, and have given him the direction he needs to continue to improve.
According to coach Wiseman, Paralympian #207 Fraser Sharp was stoked with delivering a technical ride in the Elzach Road Race, despite not considering it a strength of his. The tricky technical section through the town requires fast-paced changes of course, and Fraser was happy with his performance. More than that, however, he improved upon his finish in the Ostend Road Race the previous week, concluding a campaign that has been really positive for him.
When asked what’s next for this impressive group of Para cyclists, Wiseman lays out the roadmap to the World Championships in Canada, an event he’s looking forward to:
“I’m really pleased with how we’re shaping up for the next stage. The results we’ve seen here indicate we have all the right systems in place to support this group of Para cyclists to the next Paralympics in Paris in 2024. The next thing for everyone is to get home, get through the travel, get back into training. Take the learning we’ve had while away. Refocus our attention on the Road World Championships in Canada in August. All the Para cyclists here have shown the attitude, performance and the progression to put them in a strong position to be selected for the World Championships.”