Tokyo Olympics: Kiwi cycling contingent eye return to podium

Once considered a strong medal prospect, the NZ men's track cycling sprint trio now seems unlikely to get near a podium at this month's Tokyo Olympics.

After the retirement of Eddie Dawkins last year, Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Sam Dakin have had their spotlight taken by another programme - the men's endurance team, who are now shaping as serious medal prospects.

For several years, the endurance programme has taken a back seat to the sprinters.

But with the likes of 2019 omnium world champion Campbell Stewart added to the mix, they're revitalised and ready to step out of the the shadows.

Aaron Gate, 30, is the elder statesman of the group.

"Make sure they're training hard enough," Gate tells Newshub. "Just cracking the whip like I would've had at their age."

The men’s team pursuit finished fourth at Rio 2016, after claiming bronze in London 2012 and Beijing 2008.

"Rio was disappointing for us, and it took us a while to get out of that slump," says Gate.

"It was fourth place at the Olympic Games. It wasn't terrible, but it felt terrible at the time because it felt like we should've been on the podium there, and we weren't."

Recent training times suggest they would’ve been in gold medal contention at Rio, and should be in the mix come Tokyo.

Meanwhile, the women's team pursuit are far more comfortable flying under the radar, after top five finishes at the past two Games.

"The women's endurance team has done consistently well," says veteran Kirstie James. 

"There's a big difference in terms of coming third and fourth, but in terms of actual performance, it's pretty close."

But exactly where both teams sit compared to the rest of the world remains unknown, given the lack of recent international competition.

Regardless, there's no reason they can't be pushing for a medal in a few week's time.

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