Queenstown’s Eli Tregidga only started taking cycling seriously last June — in February he’ll fly overseas to join one of Europe’s leading under-19 teams.

Eli, who’s just 17, says he’s always ridden bikes but ‘‘never super-consistent or trained properly’’.

That changed during the 2020 lockdown when he started focusing on it, going on to compete in some local club races, with the Central Otago Wakatipu Cycling Club, and started seeing results.

With the help of his Wānaka-based coaches, Patrick and Tammy Harvey, he made the Southland junior U17 development team last year and
this year came fifth overall in the Tasman Wheelers Junior Tour, coming second in one stage, and nabbed a couple of second places in stages on the Yunca Junior Tour of Southland.

Unbeknown to Eli, Patrick contacted the Gepla-Watersley R&D under-19 men’s team in the Netherlands to see if they might be interested in signing the teen, who’s just about to finish at Wakatipu High School.

‘‘He actually reached out [to them] before I knew anything because he didn’t want to get my hopes up.

‘‘He organised everything, then I had a few meetings with the team directors and managers, and they seemed really keen.’’

Eli’s expecting to head to Spain in February for a training camp before settling in to the Watersley Sports & Talentpark in Sittard, a residential campus for international and top national athletes, where they live and train.

‘‘It looks really cool,’’ he says, ‘‘there are a whole lot of coaches and facilities and everything — gyms and massage therapists, and I think
they do some catering options as well, so there’s a whole lot of support around it, which I think is going to make it really easy to [adjust], way easier than trying to live by myself and sort myself out.

‘‘I’m really excited, I think it’ll be pretty awesome.’’

Originally from Auckland, Eli and his family moved to the Whakatipu in 2015, ‘‘but I fully consider Queenstown my home’’, he says.

And he’s been inspired by fellow Queenstown pro cyclist Reuben Thompson, also a Wakatipu High graduate who next year will make his WorldTour debut.

‘‘We’re different types of riders, but he’s a huge inspiration, for sure.’’

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  • Additional reporting: Philip Chandler
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