FROM THE SOUTHLAND TIMES
Despite being one of this country's most exciting track talents, Invercargill's Pieter Bulling is about to ride for New Zealand for the first time.
The 17-year-old Southland Boys' High School student has been named in the 11-strong New Zealand track squad for the junior world championships in Montichiari, Italy, in August.
It nearly wasn't so.
The tall, blonde cyclist has only recently recovered from an injury that could have proved a major speed hump in his career.
Having spent so much time riding around the ILT Velodrome in Invercargill, Bulling's body had become too strong on his right side, the outside leg as he powered his way around the boards.
The results were not good.
"The right leg got a lot stronger than the left and the left was starting to become quite weak and all sorts of things started to go wrong," Bulling said.
Cue knee problems, issues with the hips and more problems with his glutes – pretty much all the parts you need to propel a bike.
It was a scary time, one Bulling is happy to have behind him now.
The injury persisted for the best part of five months and now Bulling has to monitor himself closely.
Riding clockwise around the track is not an option so he has been spending plenty of time on the road to try to keep both sides of his body balanced, as well as a series of exercises designed with the same purpose.
Now Bulling hopes to impress New Zealand development coach Stu McDonald enough to get a ride in the team pursuit and the madison in Italy, where he would like to team up with another rider with massive potential, Cantabrian Josh Atkins.
For a rider who has cut a swathe through the younger age groups and won a host of national titles along the way, this year, for Bulling, is about stepping up.
"This is my first time ever making a New Zealand team.
"Last year I got that knee injury so I missed out on going to Canberra for the road and now Oceanias is like a provincial thing," Bulling said.
"This year is an experience (building) year for me. It's about getting into the under 19 and seeing what it's all about.
"Also, I'd definitely like to get top three in the TP, and also top three in the madison would be good."
Bulling admitted loving the rock 'n' roll nature of the madison, a two-man team event that is as explosive as it is confusing.
One day, however, Bulling will look beyond the track with hopes of following what is becoming an increasingly well-worn route from the national track squad to professional road racing overseas.
"For me, my future is on the track, and then, hopefully, after that I'll go on to the road and head to Europe, go pro. That's my major goal."