From the 6th to the 11th of July, I, along with around 40 other Junior New Zealand cyclists were involved with the Junior Tour of Canberra in Australia. We flew out of Auckland on a Wednesday afternoon and after a pleasant and excitement filled flight we arrived in Sydney at around 5pm. We soon gathered our bikes and baggage and after a lengthy wait, our truck arrived and we piled all the gear into the back of it, eventually managing to fit everything in. From here we divided ourselves into a few mini vans and set off for a three hour drive to Canberra. By this time it was close to 10pm so the drive was quiet and sleep-filled. We arose sleepily at around midnight as we arrived at the Australian Institute of Sport where we were issued individual key cards and soon were fast asleep in our individual rooms.
Thursday morning consisted of getting to know our accommodation, which proved to be exceptional as we had heard. Particularly the dining area was dream-like, with unlimited amounts of delicious food being served with free access to all sorts of drinks. It is no wonder Australia continuously produces top level athletes when they have access to facilities such as the A.I.S. The rest of Thursday consisted of building our bikes, and short trip into town for supplies. For the u19’s, we got to bed early with only thought of racing the next day on our minds.
We awoke on the first day of racing to bitterly cold weather, with the temperature being a scrape over freezing.
For the u19 men, Friday consisted of 23km Individual Time Trial over a considerably undulating course. We rested and prepared ourselves mentally during the morning, as the TT didn’t start until the afternoon. The time trial began in the bitter cold, late into the afternoon, with the 8 u19 men in my squad being spread out in the starting times. It was a difficult course, with no parts of it being dead flat. It was over soon and as the results soon came to hand, some good results surfaced. Nick Bain, a member of the squad won convincingly with a 20second buffer over 2nd place. With the other 7 riders being spread out in the top 25. This was a pleasingly start to the tour as we were all placed in the top half but meant we were going to have tough days racing ahead to defend the yellow jersey.
Saturday was to consist of a 120km road stage over a very challenging course, again with many climbs and no real flat sections. . Our plan was to have at least one Kiwi in any breakaway that went and to try to protect Nick’s yellow jersey. An early break developed with two Kiwis in it. It was a sluggish and grinding race, with strong winds and very cool temperatures. Unfortunately after the testing race we were unable to stop the strength of a very talented Australian rider, Caleb Ewan who powered away and soloed to victory over a minute ahead. While it was disappointing to lose the leaders jersey we looked forward to redeeming ourselves the next day, which was to be the final day of racing. We got back to the AIS on Saturday afternoon, did our various methods of recovery and most of us went off for some alone time and a rest up before dinner. We got together that night and discussed our tactics for Sunday. After a tough day’s racing, we all got off to bed for an early night and eager the tour on a high.
Sunday was to consist of a 55km stage in the morning followed by a 40 minute Criterium in the afternoon on a specialised Crit course at the venue, Stromlo Park. The short road stage was bound to be fast and furious and we expected this. The Aussies came out aggressive and soon enough the stage was over, blowing to pieces with 10km to go. None of the Kiwi’s managed the stage victory but we still had 3 guys in the top 10 with just the Crit to ride. The Crit was something reasonably new to us all as it was on a specialised course for Criteriums. The course was about 1km long and had the general flow of a race course, with long corners and fast straights. It was bitterly cold and blowing a gale, promising for a testing race. The first 30minutes were hard and fast with numbers in the front pack being whittled away constantly. WIth around 10minutes remaining, Tom Vessey, a member of the NZ team, made a bold move breaking from the leading group and soloing to an incredible victory up against some real talent.
This was a great way to end the tour for the team. After results were final, we had 3 Kiwi’s in the top 10 with myself placing 13th.
Canberra Tour was a great experience and I encourage any junior cyclist to aim to make a squad that allows them to benefit from this tour the way I did. It gave me valuable experience up against some great overseas riders. I would like to thank all those who assisted in me and the other BikeManawatu riders who attended the tour in fundraising and the support you gave us, it is greatly appreciated.