By LUCY WORMALD
Queenstown’s Oliver Watson-Palmer will compete for New Zealand at UCI Track Cycling Junior World Championships in Tel Aviv this August.
The 18-year-old is one of 13 riders selected for the NZ junior track team — marking his debut on the international stage, and the first time Cycling NZ has been able to select a junior team since the start of the pandemic.
Eager to get a taste of global competition, he hopes to compete in the team pursuit, scratch race, and the Madison event.
‘‘It’s an awesome opportunity, it’s been a big long-term goal of mine, so it’s really cool to finally make that happen,’’ he says.
Oliver’s found himself on national podiums consistently over the past two years, including recent wins in the under-19 scratch race and elite team pursuit at the National Track Cycling Champion ships in Cambridge.
‘‘I think the main goal for me going into the event was I really wanted to win at least one national title because I knew I was capable of getting it … winning the race gave me a lot of confidence.’’
After a dabbling in ‘‘a bit of running, a bit of triathlon’’, Oliver picked up road racing in 2018 and then track cycling in 2019 after boarding at St Peter’s in Cambridge, “which has a velodrome pretty much on the back doorstep”, his dad, Daryl, says.
Naturally competitive and determined to push himself, Oliver soon found himself competing at a national level in both road and track events.
‘‘I love cycling, I like being outdoors, I like endurance sports, that’s just my kind of thing.’’
Previously coached by Tim Carswell, current head coach of Belgium’s national track cycling team, and now under the guidance of Commonwealth Games gold medallist Glen Thomson, Oliver’s in the midst of a jam-packed year of cycling.
Next week he will compete in the New Zealand Road Cycling Championships in Hokitika, before heading over to Belgium for a seven-week European road racing campaign which will see him compete in a series of events with local teams.
And then he’ll be back and preparing for the World Track Championships, where the goal is ‘‘hopefully medalling’’.
His mum, Barb, says they’re proud of what Oliver’s achieved so far.
‘‘He’s all in, so we are happy to support that and see where he can take it,’’ she says.
Oliver’s also recently been picked up by road cycling team, MitoQ-NZ Cycling Project.
‘‘They’ve selected me as a development rider … they help progress junior and upcoming cyclists … so it’s good to have them as support this year,’’ he says.