Cycling Southland's Tom Scully is on the verge of the Pro Tour after earning a stagiare contract with top team Garmin Sharp Barracuda.
Scully has one of only two short-term stagiare (apprentice) contracts handed out by Garmin, with the other one going to Australian climber Lachlan Morton.
Scully could get a fulltime contract if he can impress enough during a programme that continues with the Tour of Denmark this month.
Scully's New Zealand-based coach, Jerard Stock, said the team was looking for a classics rider and a climber to join the squad for next season and had earmarked Scully and Morton as their top candidates.
Garmin is led by Christian Vande Velde and has David Millar, Tyler Farrar and New Zealander Jack Bauer on its roster.
Scully, who has spent the past two seasons on Garmin's development team, forced his way into the reckoning with a third placing in the under-23 Paris-Roubaix one-day race earlier in the season, attracting the attention of Garmin boss Allan Peiper, a former winner of the same race.
"If he does what he's told to do and does it well, he could get a better job for next year," Stock said.
"It's a bit like he's had the job interview and now he's doing the 90-day trial. They don't hand these things out willy-nilly - all the pro teams generally only have a couple of places."
It defies belief that just over two years ago Scully's cycling future was in doubt after a serious race crash in Ireland.
"It's a testament to his drive and determination and professionalism that he's got himself back. When it first happened they said he would be lucky to ever ride a bike again," Stock said.
Scully had a solid debut for the Garmin team behind leader and hometown boy Vande Velde at the Tour of Elk Grove in Chicago last week.
Upgraded to a UCI category 2.1 event, Scully finished 16th overall, with Francois Parisien winning the general classification by one second.
Stock said Scully would probably be back in New Zealand in time to ride the Tour of Southland at the end of October, but his involvement would depend on how he came through the races in front of him.
Scully was a member of the young PowerNet team that delivered Josh Atkins to Invercargill in the yellow jersey last year.
"Tom really enjoyed the Tour of Southland last year; they had a great group of guys who got on well. I think if the same opportunity presented itself, he'd probably look at riding it and I think you'd see a different Tom Scully, because he's back to 100 per cent and he's going to be stronger and faster," Stock said.
"He's got the capabilities to do something special in that race; it's just whether he can strike it in good form."
Garmin has a record of supporting its riders' track ambitions, and Scully still holds dreams of representing New Zealand on the boards, especially if rumours that the points race would be reinstated for the Rio Olympics turned out to be correct, Stock said.
Article courtesy of The Southland Times