By PHILIP CHANDLER
A 20-year-old Queenstown cyclist’s celebrating a breakthrough win in one of the most prestigious under-23 races in the world.
Cycling for a French team, Reuben Thompson beat 149 other riders to win the three-stage Giro Ciclistico Valle d’Aosta in northwestern Italy last Sunday.
He says the feeling of standing atop the podium, Italian riders on either side of him, was ‘‘complete imposter syndrome, to be honest’’.
‘‘The list of past winners is a who’s who of the current professional peleton.
‘‘I knew I was capable of a result like this, but it’s still a little unbelievable to put every thing together and pull it off.’’
The one-time New Zealand U19 triathlon champion, who only switched full-time to cycling two years ago, finished second in the first stage, fourth in the second stage and 18th in the third stage.
He not only won the overall yellow jersey for the fastest time across the stages — by 1.57
minutes — but also the King of the Mountains classification for his hillclimbing, and the points classification for his stage finishes.
Being the hardest U23s race in terms of climbing suited him ‘‘super well’’, he says — the
three stages, cumulatively, featured 11,500 metres of climbing.
Thompson announced him self on his hometown stage last November when he won The
Remarkables access road stage of the Tour of Southland.
That came a month after he’d landed a pro contract with crack French team Groupama FDJ La Conti’s U23 development team.
Thompson says he couldn’t have won in Italy last weekend without the support of his four
other team members.
‘‘We had the strongest team, and they all committed 100% to my yellow jersey.’’
Through this French connection he’s also had some recent World Tour experience that’s helped him when he’s gone down to U23 racing.
‘‘Each race day I have learnt so much and I have come on a lot physically.
‘‘I’m hoping now with some confidence I can take all this learning and go from strength
On Wednesday night Thompson saddled up for the five-day Tour Alsace stage race in