Firstly I’d like to thank Bike Manawatu for their contribution which helped me to travel to Australia to compete at the International Track Series in Melbourne as a member of the U19 Track Development Squad. This event involved 4 days of Track Racing at the Darebin Velodrome with a number of countries making last ditch effort for Olympic Selection.
This was an awesome experience with Australia fielding a strong U19 Team also, with their Junior Worlds Team in attendance. The New Zealand squad performed strongly in both the men’s and women’s fields. This week of training and racing clearly set me up well for my road racing the following weekend!
A big thanks must go to Cycling New Zealand for providing this opportunity and in particular to Jon Andrews for the organisation.
Once the racing in Melbourne was over I flew to Canberra arriving 4 days out from competition. After spending a couple of days in Canberra riding around the courses and adjusting to the negative temperatures, John Rippon (the NZ U19 men’s road coach) and 4 other kiwi boys arrived. Much welcomed company after a few days by myself.
I placed a bit of pressure on myself to perform going into all of the races as it was an important stepping stone before I headed to Canada a week after arriving back in NZ. The build-up was going really well so I thought I would have a chance to place quite high. The Aussies are quite well known for aggressive racing and quite big bunches with lots of talented riders so I knew if I wanted to go well I really had to be at my best.
The first event up was the individual time trial on Friday. The course was quite a hilly one which meant it would be impossible to find a rhythm. The conditions were almost perfect. Wasn’t too cold with not a breath of wind. I had high expectations going into this event but was disappointed to only get 16th.
Next up, on Saturday, was the road race. A pretty flat ride with one sharp rise at the finish, a sprinters course, which I was over the moon about coming off a bit of track racing and having a bit of speed in the legs. There was always a group of guys up the road so the pace was never really off. I just intended to sit in and not do much until the sprint. As the race went on I felt better and better and started to realise how technical the finish was with a one lane bridge and two reasonably sharp corners all within 500 meters of the finish. With such a large amount of riders I knew it was a bit of gamble leaving it to a bunch sprint. Over the climb on the last lap four Victorian boys attacked over the climb and held about a 20 second gap for most of the last lap. With about 4k to go I went all out after the break. I ended up catching them with just over to 2k to go as they started attacking each other. With just over 1k to go and the bunch closing the gap I thought it was now or never so I attacked. By the time I hit the rise with 150m to go I could feel the rest of the field coming. I was gutted to be rolled in the final 30 meters, coming away with the bronze medal.
I was fired up for the criterium the next day, as it was my favorite event and the event I wanted to do the best in. I went about it the same as the road race, same tactics. The South Australians had one man up the road in a 4 man break so they were controlling the field. With 4 laps to go I knew the break was coming back so there was only one way I could win it. So I bridged to the break, passing a few guys in the process. One Aussie managed to jump on and help me out a bit which really helped bridge the final meters. We caught the break just before the final lap and just as the South Australian attacked. I was feeling really strong and I thought, as long as the gap doesn’t get too big I should be able to close it. With half a lap to go I kicked and made my way across coming into the last corner, coming onto the finishing straight I was on his wheel and just opened up the sprint. As I crossed the line I was absolutely shocked with what I had just done and couldn’t believe it. Taking the Australian U19 Criterium title.
Next up for me is Tour de l’Abitibi in Canada (18- 23 July). There is a strong six rider, U19 Mens NZ team who are going and I’m thankful to have been selected for this opportunity. Will be a great opportunity to ride at the top junior level with 180 riders, 25 teams and 7 countries represented.
Thanks again for all the support I have received from Bike Manawatu as a