Early rewards for cycling switch

'Pretty special': Queenstown pro cyclist Reuben Thompson. PICTURE: ALEXIA TINTINGER

A promising Queenstown triathlete’s ditched swimming and running to concentrate on cycling, and is making tracks already.

Former national under-19 triathlon champion Reuben Thompson, 18, decided to switch to cycling in April, and is now spending four months in France trying to crack the big-time.

He’s racing several times a week with a junior team, Velosport Valletais, and earning prize money from some good results like a win last week.

Currently he’s spending three weeks with the New Zealand U19 cycling team, whose campaign starts tonight with a four-stage race, followed by three one-day races and a two-stage race.

Reuben, who left Wakatipu High in mid-2017 to attend St Peter’s School in Cambridge, to advance his triathlon career, says he’s been leaning more towards cycling over the past year.

He’s also been inspired by U19 individual pursuit world record-holder Finn Fisher-Black, whom he shared a dorm with at St Peter’s. Finn also got him a ride with NZ’s premier development team, where he got some reasonable results.

Reuben’s also made a name for himself in Queenstown cycling circles with various ‘King of the Mountain’ (KOM) attempts.

He holds the KOM title for The Remarkables skifield road for his time of 35 minutes, had the Crown Range title till Hamish Bond took it off him, and in May was only 14 seconds off 2018 Tour of Southland winner Michael Vink’s time on Coronet Peak – “in the final kilometre there was no traction with all the ice so I am confident I’ll crack that one over summer”.

Reuben says his aim in France is to get a contract with an U23 development team next year, “and then begin working my way to the world tour ranks”.

“My ultimate goal is to be the first Kiwi to podium in a Grand Tour.

“I’d still like to maybe come back to long distance triathlon after cycling and try to qualify to race in the pro field at the Kona World Ironman Championships – that was the dream for me when I first got into triathlon.”