The time trial expertise of Feilding's Jesse Sergent will come to the fore when he rides as a "domestique" in the prestigious Giro d'Italia tour which starts in Italy tonight.
Sergent is riding for his team RadioShack-Nissan-Trek, who will want him to help look after team leader Frank Schleck and set them up on time trial stages.
Sergent's coach, Mike McRedmond, said his charge was really excited about the idea of riding his first grand tour.
"There's a lot of history around the Giro d'Italia," McRedmond said. "He's got a very good team that he's part of and probably most importantly, he's going in with some reasonable form. He's trained well over the last three weeks. He's feeling strong, he's feeling good. So it's a matter of if everything comes together on the day."
The opening stage prologue will be important for Sergent to perform in and set his team up with a good time for the rest of the tour, then in a week's time there is a 32km team time trial that is important for him, too.
"They'll see him as a key man in contributing to that," McRedmond said. "Other than that I would imagine a domestique role, riding in support of Frank Schleck, making sure Frank stays out of trouble especially in the flat, fast stages where there's a lot of crashes."
McRedmond said there had been New Zealanders in the tour before, but to be considered good enough by a professional cycling team was fantastic.
"Some of the mountain stages are mean. And that's where the hill climbers will really come to the fore. I think the Giro is a hill climber's tour. I wouldn't expect Jesse to be fighting for overall podium results but it's going to be a great experience for him. [He will] learn a lot and certainly add value to his cycling."
Sergent has a two-year contract with RadioShack-Nissan-Trek and after the London Olympics in July, his focus will be purely road.
"If he keeps developing the way he is, Tour de France next year," McRedmond said.
The first time trial stage of the Giro d'Italia is tonight, with the first three stages raced in Denmark. The tour then transfers to Italy for the remaining 18 stages, with the final week of tough mountain stages likely to decide the title.
- © Fairfax NZ News