Australians use tour to develop road skills
The big Australian contingent taking part in the Junior Tour of Southland this weekend don't have to look far into the record books for inspiration.
It was only a couple of years ago that Caleb Ewan, who opted to race on the road in Europe this season rather than defend his rainbow jersey in the omnium at the junior world track championships in Invercargill, was competing on the roads of Southland in the Yunca-sponsored tour and he is now on the cusp of a professional contract on the World Tour.
The 18-year-old has been linked with Saxo Bank-Tinkoff, where Australian Brad McGee is a sports director, though Racing Kangaroos coach Kurt Polock believes Ewan's future may lie with Team Sky.
That's the sort of inspiration the young Australian riders can draw from as they contemplate a difficult three days of racing starting with an individual time trial at Teretonga Park this morning.
Polock has a 14-strong squad in his Racing Kangaroos line-up, along with another six riders from New South Wales.
The Southland junior tour now plays an important part in the the development of young Australian riders.
"We've got a pretty well-balanced squad, a lot of young kids like the under-15s who are just coming through. This is where it all starts over here. We've been bringing over youngsters such as Caleb Ewan, who is now a medallist at world championship level. It's a good breeding ground to come over here and learn their trade."
Polock said his young charges would learn a lot over the weekend, including how to combat some of the difficult weather conditions which are forecast.
"You can tell them it's going to be cold and windy but it's a different cold to what they've experienced at home. It's a good place to teach them over here. We can teach them how to put riders into the gutter and how to make it hard for everyone else and easy for themselves."
Among the Australian contingent is Jack Edwards, who won three Australian junior titles on the track this year and is hoping a big showing at this year's Oceania Championships will earn him inclusion in the Australian team for next year's world junior championships.
Edwards, who started cycling five years ago when his dad saw an ad in the local paper, will be riding his third Yunca tour.
"It's good hard racing, it's good with Oceania coming up," he said.
The competition will include a big field of under-17 women, with Lara Batkin and Hollee Simons hoping to impress in their second visit to Southland.
Like the rest of their team-mates they will stay on in Invercargill to race in the junior carnival next week.
- The Southland Times