Big task on hand for easy rider Dylan Kennett
NATHAN BURDON IN GLASGOW
The New Zealand team pursuit depends on a 19-year-old who loves to talk rubbish and plays video games in his spare time. Fairfax Media talked with Waimate's Dylan Kennett.
Every role in a team pursuit is important.
The event requires tremendous speed and stamina, and an ability to push to the limits of endurance, but it's up to Dylan Kennett to get New Zealand off to the perfect start.
Not too fast, so that the train of black skinsuits stretches out on the track, and not too slow - because moments lost at the start of the 4km event are lost forever.
Pressure? Not for a teenager from Waimo who first dreamed of riding the pursuit after watching on television as now team-mate Marc Ryan claimed a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics.
Ryan was a member of the same cycling club, and when the family moved into town and closer to the local track a few months later, Kennett's father asked if he'd like to get a track bike and head along to the club's Monday night racing.
As Kennett jogs over to chat at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome following one of the New Zealand team's final sessions before the Commonwealth Games, he's still looking around in wonder at his impressive surrounds.
In just his fourth major meet as an elite rider. He's already a world championship bronze medallist.
"Most of my mates have left school, some have gone to uni, some are working jobs, and young guys like me and Piet [Bulling] are here competing at the Commonwealth Games. It's awesome," Kennett says, as he looks around the 4500-seat venue which is expected to host some of the most popular events at the Games.
"The Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games were the two big ones I watched when I was younger, and the track cycling was certainly one of the sports that grabbed my attention. I've always dreamed of being at the Commonwealth Games - I didn't know what sport I wanted to be in, but I wanted to be there."
Kennett admits he was struggling to find the fitness required before the world championships in February as he recovered from alignment issues.
The world championships was the first time he had managed to do his starting role and complete the full 4km journey.
"I've embraced it as my job, and I take pride in it. The more I do, the more it's dialled in. In training if [coach] Dayle [Cheatley] says 20.4sec, I'm within a 10th of a second now. You've got to be the same every time, otherwise your team-mates don't know what to expect," he said.
"It's good having Dream (Marc Ryan) to guide me through that, because that used to be his job, although I think he enjoys third wheel now, where he gets to be the big diesel, doing the big turns."
Kennett, who will also ride the individual pursuit and one of the bunch events in Glasgow, and 21-year-old Bulling, from Invercargill, have been the big movers since the departures of Jesse Sergent and Sam Bewley after the London Olympics.
"Kenny is a pretty special character, a unique animal on a pushbike," Cheatley says.
"He starts our team well and, at the age of 19, I think he's probably our youngest-ever elite world medallist. He's got an important job, but he does it well and he's got the physique to be able to do that," he said.
"The thing with Kenny, and also Piet, they are real winners. They like to win and they have that mongrel in them that they want to put it out onto the track - real nice guys off the track, but you pin a number on their back and they'll do anything to win."
Kennett and Bulling have been rooming together in Glasgow, "talking crap" in their spare time and playing the Playstation on offer in the Games village.
The two international rookies take pride in their development.
"New Zealand's got a lot of strong guys who can ride three or four [wheel], the likes of Jesse Sergent or Wes Gough. Man one and two are the roles we are looking to improve on, and I guess that's why me and Piet have been chucked in the deep end a little bit, being young guys given the toughest job," Kennett said.