A breakout performance at this year's club road nationals in Queenstown helped confirm Tom Sexton as Cycling Southland's junior rider of the year at the club's annual awards recently.
The James Hargest College cyclist headed off a group of promising young riders from within the Cycling Southland development programme following his third-place finish in the 75km under-17 race over a demanding circuit in the Wakatipu basin.
"I was feeling really good," Sexton says as he recalled the race.
"We were going so fast. I thought it was going to be a really long race but we were on the last lap and it had only been like an hour and a half."
His bronze medal saw him finish well above several members of the New Zealand development squad and was an impressive showing for a rider who will be in the same age group next season.
Sexton was also 10th in the time trial in Queenstown, and was dominant locally with wins in both the time trial and road event at the Cycling Southland road championships.
As a first-year junior on the track he was also impressive at this year's age group nationals at the Stadium Southland velodrome.
A member of Southland teams which medalled in the team sprint and team pursuit, he made the final in all of his events, narrowly missing the podium in most of them.
Sexton, 14, followed his brother Chris, a good club rider who is now at university, into cycling, father Paul Sexton said.
"The velodrome has been a great thing for them. There's no family history of [cycling], but that's one of the great things, they pick their own path."
Tom said watching his older brother competing had made him hungry to get involved.
"I liked watching him on the road so I started on the road first and then I got onto the track four years ago. It's all been good from there," he said.
"I would probably favour the road first. There's more money in road and I like it because you aren't just riding around in circles."
Sexton also dabbles in mountainbiking, which he uses to develop his stamina.
Last year he was the only junior rider in the four-hour solo event of the Southland Mountainbiking Club's midwinter enduro, although he was able to keep pace with many older riders competing in the eight-hour event.
While his focus is on the road, and he counts Britons Sir Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France champion, and Mark Cavendish, a former world champion and multiple stage winner in grand tours, as inspirations, he sees his immediate future on the boards.
The favoured route to a contract with a high-profile European team for New Zealand riders is through the BikeNZ track programme and it's one that Sexton, who has started working with local coach Stu MacDonald, would love to follow.
"I will probably stay on the track for a couple of years and hopefully get recognised in a New Zealand team. Maybe the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and the worlds, and then hopefully get picked up by a team," he said.
They are lofty goals, but with the likes of Hayden Roulston and Jesse Sergent having graduated from the track to the Grand Tours, it's a realistic one for young New Zealand cyclists willing to put the hard work in.