Two of cycling’s young guns are following in some pretty impressive tracks in their quest to compete on the international stage.
Dylan Kennett hails from Waimate and doesn’t have to look far for inspiration with riders the calibre of Marc Ryan, Shane Archbold and Tour of Southland road legend Heath Blackgrove also proudly calling South Canterbury home.
Alexandra’s Sophie Williamson need not even leave the house to find an elite rider to aspire to – older brother James is a member of the Pure Black Racing team determined to crack into the professional ranks internationally.
“It gives you something to strive for and it’s a big boost knowing what they have achieved,” Dylan said.
Sophie has been known to join her accomplished sibling on rides through the picturesque Central Otago landscape.
“Only on his recovery rides though – and that’s like my hard day,” she quipped.
The talented young riders are both aiming to secure a coveted spot in the New Zealand team to compete at the 2011 Junior World Track Championships in Moscow later this year. Sophie also has her sights set on the road equivalent to be staged in Denmark.
“I would be great to do both if I can,” she said.
Strong performances at the RaboDirect National Elite and Age Group Track Championships will play a pivotal role in achieving their dream.
Both will be thrust into the under-19 ranks for the first time – a daunting prospect.
“It’s a big step up – the time for the pursuits goes down by 6 or 8 seconds or something crazy like that,” Sophie, 16, said. “It’s really hard.
“Racing at nationals gives you a real buzz though … the fields should be quite competitive.”
After securing five gold medals and breaking a New Zealand record in the 500m time trial at last year’s event, Dylan has been touted as a rider to watch.
“I’m hoping to do well and make the junior world’s team for Moscow but my main aim is the 2012 worlds in Invercargill,” he said.
He has some excellent results to his credit, including silver in the team pursuit, fifth in the kilo and 6th in the omnium at the Oceania Championships in Adelaide in November.
Racing against older riders at under-19 level when you’re just 16-years-old was “pretty tough”.
“It makes it harder but it’s definitely better in the long run … if I was down a grade, I wouldn’t get pushed as much so, while it’s tough on me at the moment, there are some advantages,” Dylan said.
Some of New Zealand’s most promising junior riders will be scorching around the ILT Velodrome during the age group nationals, testament cycling’s future is bright.