June 2024, Articles

Southland Pathways programme forges key connections with Cycling NZ

The heritage and history of cycling in Southland is long, rich and deep-rooted. It is home to the first velodrome in New Zealand, hosts the iconic annual Tour of Southland and the talent pool of past and present cyclists achieving international recognition is impressive.

Now the region is looking to the exciting future generation of cycling talent as a result of the HPSNZ Performance Pathways programme which is forging real connections between Cycling NZ, the Southland region and local coaches and athletes.

One of the key drivers of the initiative is HPSNZ Performance Pathways Southland lead, Jason McKenzie, who has been instrumental in fostering the relationships and connections between cycling in Southland and its NSO, Cycling NZ, especially in relation to facilitating talent identification and tailored support.

“Last year we had one junior track cyclist who achieved success at the junior track cycling world champs in Columbia.  This year we have three – Caitlin Kelly, Reilly Faulkner and Magnuss Jamieson – making up a third of the total team and all of whom competed at the YSD cycling series in Malaysia under the guidance of Cycling NZ’s Development Coach, Elyse Fraser,” says Jason.

Elyse, a graduate of HPSNZ’s Te Hāpaitanga coaching programme and Residency Experience, says the Southland Performance Pathways team has done a really good job at bringing youngsters onto the track.

“They have a very good regional development programme that includes younger cyclists so by the time they are at U17 and U19 level they have been supported with the transition into the cycling talent identification programme,” says Elyse.

“The connection between Cycling NZ and Southland’s cycling programme through HPSNZ has seen sprint cycling talent identified since November last year and endurance cyclists from a month later, some four months ahead of the rest of New Zealand.”

Cycling NZ believes the facilities in Southland and drive and support of key people in the region like Jason have resulted in a sustainable programme.

Elyse, a former representative track cyclist, says Cycling NZ is trying to get away from the four yearly cycle and instead develop a longer lens looking out to 2028 and 2032.

“We took a group of 25 cyclists between the ages of 14 and 18 to the YSD International Cycling Series in Malaysia earlier this year as an important part of getting them used to international travel and competition.  The results were excellent and real standouts were our cyclists from Southland.”

With all eyes on the Paris cycling team, it is fair to say that collaborative initiatives such as the one between the HPSNZ Performance Pathways team in Southland and Cycling NZ performance staff bodes well for an exciting future for New Zealand cycling on the world stage.

Cycling’s Elyse Fraser (centre) with cyclists at the pre YSD International Cycling Series camp