Tokyo Olympics: Rebuild to glory - Sam Webster leads new-look men's cycling sprint team to Japan

With the Tokyo Olympics just around the corner, the NZ men's cycling sprint team are anything but the golden prospect they were five years ago.

The trio aren't expected to even medal at this year's Games, after a big change to the team and a lack of international competition.

But veteran Sam Webster has no desire to hang up his helmet just yet and has an eye on the future. 

"We have a different team," Webster tells Newshub. "We don't have as much experience, but also, what we've been through in the last 18 months.

"Whether it's us, the international competition or everyone at home as well, it's just a very different feeling to the Games."

Silver medalists at Rio 2016 and three-time world champions, Webster and Ethan Mitchell were left to find a new teammate last year, when Eddie Dawkins announced his immediate retirement.

"I actually spoke to Eddie two days ago," says Webster.  "It was his birthday. He was in a really good space, we keep in really good touch.

"It's been good to see him happy and healthy and achieving his goals in a different part of life now."

Led by coach René Wolff, Cycling New Zealand's now taking a long-term approach with their sprint programme, selecting 25-year-old Sam Dakin as Dawkins' replacement.

"It's more than just this team, it's about all the efforts that we're doing behind at various levels of development," says high performance director Martin Barras. 

"That's never been a factor here in New Zealand. With René, we're now putting this in place, and are very hopeful it'll deliver results in two, three, four years."

Despite pushing 30, and also continuing to also compete in individual events, Webster still believes there's plenty of time on his side.

"My body's in a good state and I hope it only gets better with the taper," Webster adds. 

"I just want to go forward with these Games but the prospect of 2022 and 2024, hugely, hugely excites me."

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