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Monday, 25 March 2019 07:48 pm

Big weekend goal for young cyclist

Grace Saywell (orange helmet) competes in the Burkes Cycles Speed League track series

Grace Saywell will have a fire in her belly and a mission in her heart when she hits the track at the Hataitai Velodrome this Sunday.

Saywell (16) is one of about 10 cyclists competing in the women’s Poneke Plate race, held as part of Wellington’s annual Laykold Cup Festival.

Her mission is to win the “quite tactical” 6.6km scratch race and bring the plate back to Wellington.

“I’m quite passionate about this getting this plate back,” says the Year 12 Paraparaumu College student, who competes for the Kapiti Cycling Club.

The Poneke plate hasn’t been in Wellington hands since Saywell’s idol, Hannah Latta, won it in 2009.

Saywell says she wants to win it back for Latta, and her greatest competition will be the riders from the North Island’s west coast, which is where the plate’s lived for the past six years.

Saywell, who started cycling at 13, says she’s had her eye on the plate for years and this will be her third successive crack at it, but she only now feels able to compete at the required level.

“Now I know what I need to focus on.  I know what I need to do.”

Saywell still holds the three Girls’ Under 17 records she set at last year’s Wellington Junior Track Champs, and will be part of the Wellington team heading to Cambridge for next month’s National Track Champs.

She’s also currently leading the Under 17 girls in the local Burkes Cycles Speed League track series.

Saywell, whose idols include German track sprinter Kristina Vogel and British rider Laura Trott, says she hasn’t found out which cycling event is her speciality.

Her aim is to wear the silver fern at the Oceania Champs next year.

But even if she doesn’t claim the Poneke Plate on Sunday, Saywell won’t go home empty-handed.

She says rather than being hell-bent on winning, she goes out on her bike to learn and take something away from every stroke of the pedal.

“I just want to be able to ride and put a smile on my face. I go out there to have fun.”

The men’s 10km Laykold Cup race, considered the premier event on the Wellington track cycling calendar, will also be contested at Sunday’s carnival, as will the Stayers Cup race for masters men.

The carnival runs from midday to 4pm and spectator admission is free.

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