Young cycling champions enjoy the ride to their dreams
CYCLING is a way of life for two ambitious teenagers recently chosen as College Sport Wellington cyclists of the year.
Ione Johnson, a 15-year-old road and track cyclist, and Eden Cruise, a 14-year-old mountain biker, spend their weekends at cycling events and weeknights training.
Johnson, who attends Wellington Girls College and is the female cyclist of the year, moved to New Zealand from London with her family when she was nine.
“I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be cycling if we didn’t move to NZ,” she said. “Its quite an expensive sport.”
Being able to cycle in the country she now loves has all been due to family support.
“I’m quite lucky because my uncle is really supportive of me. He just bought me my new track bike for my 16th birthday. My dad left school quite young so he could work to get my uncle through school.”
Ione represented Wellington at the 2013 national track championship and often races in adult events and for the extra challenge, recently coming third in a three-day junior tour of the South Island.
She said although she is supposed to be goal setting, she hasn’t got around to it, however she does aspire to be a professional cyclist – she just has to choose between track and road racing.
While Ione finds mountain biking scary and prefers to speed along on flatter ground, her fellow cyclist of the year winner Eden Cruise loves the thrill of dodging trees and roots.
Eden, a year nine student at St Patrick’s College Wellington, has his own blog called “Xbox is boring, get on a bike!” and got into mountain biking because of his dad.
“Dad took me along to one low-key race, and I enjoyed it so much I kept going back.”
The races kept getting bigger, and he eventually did the Karapoti race, where, at 13, he became the youngest rider to finish among the top 10 of a New Zealand premier mountain bike race.
Eden thinks he received cyclist of the year over the others mainly because of his results at this year’s Oceania championships, where he has come first for the past two years as an Under-15.
“I was shocked to win,” he said. “There were two other guys went to the worlds (world mountain biking championships) and I thought maybe worlds is a bit higher than Oceanias, but I’m too young to go to worlds, you have to be 17.”
His two main goals are going to the world champs and the Olympics. “I reckon it would be pretty cool to be a professional,” he said.
Being a professional, however, requires dedication, something which Ione and Eden are getting a taste of as part of their squad training and camps.
Eden attended a national NZ cross-country Under-15 training camp near Tauranga last weekend, but next year will be moving up to the under 17’s.
However, he said the move to under-17s should not be too much harder, because “all of the good under 17s are moving up to under 19s”.
Ione, in her last year of an Under-17 training squad, feels a little less lucky with her age group classification.
“I have a bad birthday. A bad birthday is one at the end of the year, because they base it on the age you turn in that year. So I’m turning 17 next year.”
She said they are kept on their toes in the squad, with regular checkups to see whether they have been training enough. “Just because you are in the squad doesn’t mean you’ll get selected to go to Oshee’s (Oceania championships),” she said.
Both understand becoming professional cyclists will probably mean doing university part-time by correspondence, because they don’t want to become bored training 24/7.
However, neither wanted to think about funding it on their own, and are quite happy to rely on their parents for a while yet.