Rongotai College's George Jackson is the big title-winning hope among the strongest Wellington team to attend the National Age-Group Track Championships for many a year.
Cycling, particularly on the track, hasn't been Wellington's strongest suit, not aided by the ancient training facilities at the Hataitai Velodrome.
But, under the tutelage of coach Gary Gibson, there's a bit of a renaissance going on. Gibson now has half a dozen other coaches assisting him, including former New Zealand individual and team pursuiter Peter Latham.
Scots College are ranked seventh among schools in the country, while Rongotai's Jackson goes into these national champs, which begin in Invercargill tomorrow, as arguably the rider to beat at under-15 level.
"He has just turned 14 and I think he's got a very good chance to be on the podium in all four of his events and I'm hoping he'll come home a national champion," Gibson said.
"Under-15 tends to be full of new riders and you don't know who'll come up from other parts of the country. But he rides regularly against a Levin rider, Thomas Garbett, which has been very helpful and the two of them are the strongest riders in the country at the moment."
Jackson will ride the 500-metre time trial, the derby, points and scratch races. Like all of Wellington riders, he'll benefit from competing on an indoor board track.
"We have a very slow track. The concrete was built in 1968 and over the course of those years it's got coarser and slower," said Gibson.
"It makes us ride a lot slower so we reduce the gears down to try and keep the cadence up and we do a lot of work behind the motorbike. Anyone who goes up there will see me on the motorbike and we've got under-15s now getting up to 65kmh and it gets quite scary at that point."
Only for Gibson, though.
"The kids have no fear."
Having finally established some numbers and quality in his programme, Gibson only expects Wellington track cycling to flourish. Thanks, in part, to the opening of the new Cambridge indoor track, where they'll be able to train and compete more readily than Invercargill.
- Fairfax Media
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