Some of New Zealand’s most promising young road riders will head to France next month to further their experience competing in the hurly burly against Europe’s best.
The New Zealand under-19 cycling team will take on the challenge of a European campaign for the first time, competing in two stage races and three one-day races in their three-week venture in France.
It is the first time that the national under-19 men’s team has ventured to Europe, and is the brainchild of coach Marc Prutton. The well-known Christchurch cyclist has been a full-time endurance sport coach for the past 10 years and is now the Cycling New Zealand under-19 road cycling coach.
Prutton, who has a pedigree in cycling and triathlon, also has a diploma in Recreation and Sport with coaching credentials from Cycling Australia and the world body, the UCI in Switzerland.
“The pinnacle of road cycling is in Europe and this tour will prove a fantastic experience for them travelling and living in a foreign cycling environment and experiencing a variety of racing against some incredibly strong competition,” Prutton said.
“They also have to learn to live and operate in a team environment and at the same time they have the opportunity to impress potential professional team scouts.”
The six-strong team comprises Reuben Thompson, formerly of Queenstown and now based in Cambridge, who has experience living and racing in Japan. He is joined by another Cambridge rider in former national schools time trial winner, Xander White; Palmerston North’s Drew Christensen who is younger brother of Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes’ Ryan Christensen; Nelson’s Ari Scott and Aucklanders Jacob Hannon and Barnaby Clegg-Shaw, also a national schools time trial winner.
The team will contest the four-stage Tour of Valromey from 11 July, with recent winners including 2013 champion Mathieu van der Poel, the current world cyclo-cross world champion, world number four ranked mountain biker and winner of the Amstel Gold Cup on the road, and New Zealand-dwelling Keagan Girdlestone, the former Dimension Data professional.
The team will then compete in three one-day races before returning to eastern France for the two-stage Tour of Trambouze, where past winners include World Tour stars Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet and Nicholas Roche.
“This tour is the initial step in a journey we hope can lead young kiwis towards a professional career in cycling,” said Cycling New Zealand High Performance Director, Martin Barras.
“It is a great opportunity for these riders to experience the high standard of racing to be found in Europe. We will not only follow their racing with interest but are already working on what the next step entails for them in the sport.”
The Kiwi team may receive some cycling attention with an early stage of the Tour de France racing close to their course in the opening tour race.