By GUY WILLIAMS
As promising Queenstown road cyclist Reuben Thompson sweats it out on a stationary trainer in an Auckland quarantine hotel, he can reflect on another successful European season.
In a major career development for the 19-year-old, Thompson’s just landed his first professional contract, signing a two-year deal with La Conti Groupama FDJ, the under-23 development team for Équipe Groupama FDJ.
The climbing specialist tells Mountain Scene he ‘‘couldn’t be more excited’’ because the French team has the best success rate for turning out pro riders.
‘‘In the three years the team has run, they’ve sent 28 riders to the pro ranks, so I’m truly in the best place possible to advance as a rider.’’
After initially planning to stay in Europe and spend the off-season training, he’s instead returned from Spain to compete in next month’s Tour of Southland, in which he’s guest riding for the Vet4Farm team.
Currently France’s top World Tour team, sits 10th in the world rankings.
Thompson says the team gets a ‘‘quite astounding’’ level of support.
Based in Besançon, a city near the Swiss border, he’ll be racing all over Europe next year in what will be his third northern summer after riding for a French junior team last year.
The contract is another big career move for the former national under-19 triathlon champion, who only specialised in cycling 18 months ago.
It follows some outstanding late-season results after what he calls a ‘‘ridiculous amount of bad luck’’ with crashes and punctures in the first half of a Covid-disrupted three-month season in Spain.
The best of the lot was a runner-up finish, behind a teammate, in the Torredonjimeno round of the Spanish Cup on October 4.
That followed eighth in the Tour of Alicante the week before, including a fourth in one stage.