Gaining selection in the New Zealand team happened sooner than expected for Southland track cyclist Tom Sexton.
"I have been selected a year before when I thought I would be, so it is a big shock to me," he said.
"I have only just moved into my second year (at) under-19."
The 17-year-old was named in a youthful squad for the third World Cup track event of the season in Hong Kong later this month.
"It is pretty cool to have the opportunity to represent my country on the world stage against some of the best riders in the world," he said.
The selection wasn't completely out of the blue for the teenager, who has been attending training camps in Cambridge recently.
"I have been up to camp in Cambridge in December and I am back here this month," he said.
"I had a bit of warning last year that I might be selected, but I didn't have too high hopes because I was facing some good riders for selection."
The training camps help to prepare the riders for the upcoming meeting.
"We try different combinations in the team pursuit and pacing strategies," he said.
"It is a lot of different work up here just trying to get in top shape before we go over."
Strong performances at the National Championships and Oceania Track Cycling Championships helped him gain the attention of the national selectors.
"That is where the coaches saw that I was doing some good times and working hard in the team pursuit, so they invited me up to give me a shot," he said.
With the men's world champion team pursuit and team sprint both high in the UCI world rankings, the Hong Kong event provides an opportunity to further develop depth with half of the squad in their teens.
"The New Zealand team is pretty good and so we usually do enough to qualify for the Olympics and World Championships in the first one or two events," he said.
"I guess this means we have a good group of development riders coming through for the Olympics in Tokyo and the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games."
Sexton is looking long term with his goals in the sport, but would love to ride in the Olympics one day.
"Rio would be a bit out of my reach; I am a bit young," he said.
"Tokyo 2020 would be a good aim for me, it will give me time for development and training with the elite team."
The events which Sexton will be saddling up for are yet to be confirmed, but he enjoys the team pursuit and points race the most.
"Team pursuit is pretty good, getting to work as a team and pull off a good ride is really good," he said.
"But for an individual event it is the points race, having to work out the tactics and how the opposition is going and figuring out what I have to do to win."
The James Hargest College student will be joined in the squad by another 17-year-old, with Manawatu's Campbell Stewart, a double junior world champion also named.
There is a strong Southland flavour to the national squad with Jeremy Presbury, Matt Archibald and Natasha Hansen also included for the event which starts on January 16.
New Zealand team: Aaron Gate, Dylan Kennett, Luke Mudgway, Marc Ryan, Tom Sexton, Campbell Stewart (Endurance men); Bryony Botha, Holly Edmonston, Nina Wollaston, Michaela Drummond, Pip Sutton (Endurance women); Jeremy Presbury, Matt Archibald, Zac Williams (Sprint men); Natasha Hansen, Katie Schofield (Sprint women).
Caption: Tom Sexton, second from left, after winning gold in the under-19 men's team pursuit at the Oceania Track Cycling Championships in Invercargill.
Photo and article courtesy of Stuff