Palmerston North's Kate Stewart is ready to step up to the big leagues with the New Zealand under-19 team ahead of the Oceania track championships in Adelaide.
Stewart, 16, and the team head to Adelaide at the end of the month and it will be her first event competing as an under-19 rider, having just moved up from the under-17 category.
Moving up means different bikes and stronger competition with older riders.
"They've been there, they've done it all before," Stewart said. "Especially with the experience - they've ridden all the bigger gears. That's the main thing.
"Up until now we've always ridden the same gear all the time, the same wheel. Now it gets all tactical, which gear are you going to ride, if you're strong enough to wind it up and get on top of it."
The Palmerston North Girls' High School student has raced with a lot of the others coming through the age groups, but despite being the "little one" it wasn't too bad in her first year with the under-19s.
"I am coping pretty good. I like the bigger gear. It's got the carbon wheels, got all the sweet stuff. We get to ride a disc-carbon wheel you can't ride in the under-17s. It looks cool, it goes faster."
The team went to a training camp in Invercargill last month, which included a lot of work on the team pursuit event.
A hill-climber and sprinter on the road, the pursuit isn't Stewart's strength and she found the scratch race to be her preferred event.
"They said with the event we only find out when we get to Adelaide what we'll be riding. I've been preparing for anything.
"I'd like to ride the omnium. Six events over a few days. There are five in the under-19 girls team, so there should be quite a few [places] up for grabs in each race hopefully."
Stewart is also part of the New Zealand junior road cycling development squad and rode as an under-17 rider for the squad at the DBR Tour on the road in Canberra in July.
But at the Oceania track championships she can stick to her preferred discipline.
"I always enjoy the track more. Now I've got a bit better on the road it's getting [to be more fun]. The track's just faster and shorter and all the adrenaline I get on the track."
She still does plenty of road work but has been training at the Johnston Park velodrome to get her speed up.
"I mainly now want to try hard for the track nationals at the end of January and February in Invercargill. They're the main selectors for the junior worlds."
She said she was unlikely to make the team in her first under-19 year, but wanted to work hard just in case.
The track championships run from November 28 to December 1.
- Manawatu Standard
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