Cadel Evans' victory in this year's Tour de France has inspired a new generation of Australian cyclists.
Many of them are in Southland this week with dreams of one day following in Evans' pedal strokes, according to New South Wales coach Kurt Polock.
Evans' victory in cycling's biggest race has been described as the greatest achievement to date by an Australian sportsperson.
"[Cycling] has just skyrocketed in Australia. Everyone wants to get on a bike, whether it's recreational or racing. Juniors are getting more involved because mum and dad are getting more involved," Polock said.
"We've got a lot better development programme now. I run a regional development programme throughout New South Wales where we've got six academy of sports where we service 80 or 90 athletes from under-15s to under-19s, feeding them through to elite level."
Polock's Racing Kangaroos have become a regular feature in the Junior Tour of Southland, to the point where the Yunca-sponsored race has become the first one marked down on Polock's calendar each year.
This year he has brought 26 riders across the Tasman, with about 40 Australian riders amongst the 180-strong field.
"We used to bring four boys over but now we go right through from under-15s to under-19s, boys and girls," he said
Coming to New Zealand was about making the young riders more self-reliant. "We make them do a lot of the stuff on their own, and it's having to back up day after day, with just a couple of hours between the stages. Learning how to eat and drink properly and getting plenty of recovery time so they can race their best every day."
The Racing Kangaroos have heavyweight backing from Australian billionaire mining magnate Nathan Tinkler.
Polock coached Tinkler, who also owns the Newcastle Knights rugby league team and the Newcastle Jets in football's A-League, as a junior rugby league player and has cultivated an interest in cycling with the man said to have a net worth of approximately A$1.13 billion.
The under-17 women's race proved to be the most hotly contested during the three-day junior tour which finished yesterday, with just two seconds separating the top three placegetters in the final standings.
New South Wales rider Josie Talbot won from Robin Hacker-Cary with Kate Stewart in third place. Only four seconds separated the placegetters in the under-15 boys' section, where Timaru's Jack Ford won from Samuel Jenner and Sam Dobbs.
A win in the final stage yesterday lifted Wakatipu's Tom Vessey to fourth in the under-19 men's, which was won by Kristoff Ford, from Tayla Harrison and Hamish Shreurs, while Julie Main won the under-19 women's event.
Pegasus rider Connor Stead won the under-17 men's classification from clubmate Luke Wieblitz by three seconds. Australian Emma Bilston was a comfortable winner in the under-15 girls, while Cycling Southland rider Fletcher Sharman headed clubmate Kain Bowles in the under-13 boys and fellow Southlander Nicole Sheilds was successful in the under-13 girls' event.
The focus of the junior riders now switches to the track with the ILT junior carnival starting tomorrow night at the ILT Velodrome.
That event will run alongside the national omnium championship, featuring world championship silver medallist Shane Archbold.
Most of New Zealand's other endurance track hopefuls for next year's Olympics will also be in the field, including a return to the boards for Hayden Roulston who has been focusing on the road since winning silver and bronze in Beijing three years ago.
Story courtesy of The Southland Times