Date: Wednesday, 01 February 2017

New Zealand elite track cyclist Kirstie James knows what Olympic gold medallist Hamish Bond is going through.

The 27-year-old former rower crossed codes in 2012 and will represent Southland again at the 2017 Elite and Under-19 Track National Championships despite being based in Cambridge.

The Auckland born cyclist, who was studying in Dunedin at the time struggled with the switch initially, but was able to get through it with the help of the Southland cycling community.

"I didn't really know what I was doing, but the people down here in Southland kind of took me under their wing," she said.

"They helped me progress, taught me the rules of racing, etiquette, how to ride in a bunch, when to put the power down, when to ease up, when to draft behind someone, which are key skills, which you can't really do without on the track." 

"That is why I ride for Southland, because I feel like it is the home of cycling for me, all the coaches and masters riders all lent me equipment and taught me how to race and helped me get from zero to the nationals, which is awesome."

The regional performance centre rower decided to complete an athlete talent transfer High Performance Sport New Zealand after finishing outside the placings in the coxless four at the World University Games meet in 2012. 

"I came down to the track a few times and loved it and switched over and moved to Invercargill," she said.

"I love the racing, it is so exciting and so much fun and tactical, so much different to rowing in that sense, rowing is monotonous, the same thing every day, you need a lake and a boat otherwise you can't do it."

According to James, while the physical requirements of the sports are similar, there are other aspects which are difficult for a beginner.

"Rowing gives you a big engine and strong legs, which is really helpful on the track, so the physiological switch over is pretty smooth, but everything around that is where the challenge is," she said.

"I had to buy a road bike, a track bike, a time trial bike, another track bike, all this equipment, I didn't know how to use it, I didn't know how to change gears on my track bike, I had to learn all those skills from scratch."

"I didn't know the rules of racing, so when I first started I would think I was doing something right and then get disqualified because I was breaking the rules."

James has a busy year ahead of her in 2017.  

She will represent NZ at the World Cup event in Cali, before getting married in April, while she has picked up a road cycling contract with New York based Velo Classic team to ride in the US, on top of writing her masters' thesis in science and psychology.

The Southland endurance rider will line up in the individual pursuit, points race, scratch race and team pursuit at the nationals.

She claimed second in the scratch race and third in the team pursuit at last year's event, but unfortunately will have to ride in a composite team in the pursuit as Southland doesn't have enough riders.

Southland will look to retain their status as the No.1 province in NZ track cycling as 74 elite riders, 59 under-19 riders, and five para-cyclists from around the country, including Olympic medallists descend on the Invercargill-based velodrome.

At a glance

What: 2017 Elite and Under-19 Track National Championships

Where: SIT Velodrome, Invercargill

When: Thursday to Sunday, sessions start at 10am and 6:30pm daily, with 5pm evening start on Sunday.

Article and photo courtesy Stuff


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