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National colours: Queenstown's pro cyclist Reuben Thompson, racing for the NZ national team, in action in Wellington earlier this week. PICTURE: SHARKEY SNAPS

By MATTHEW MCKEW

A puncture burst any individual chances of success for Queenstown pro cyclist Reuben Thompson this week, but his efforts put his team first in Wellington.

The Whakatipu’s king of the hill opened his season with a team trial win on the first day of the New Zealand Cycle Classic in the capital.

Thompson, 19, was proudly racing for the NZ national team, kitted out in black lycra with a white fern, alongside eventual tour winner Corbin Strong.

‘‘We were six guys who had never ridden together before that morning and it was probably the smoothest, most calm team trial I have ever done.’’

On day two Thompson was pushing for a strong finish when a puncture forced him into a wheel change, and the leaders raced away from him with just 3.5km to go.

‘‘That was my ambitions for the tour over, I wanted to drive for GC [general classification leader], but we still had two other guys who could win, so I put my focus on looking after
them.’’

He spent day three protecting his teammates from the wind, then used his hill climbing skills to set a lightning pace for Strong and other teammate Finn Fisher-Black to take the
big points on day four.

For Thompson, the course was not the most challenging he’s faced, but he believes it’s a good warm-up and is pleased his team won the overall comp.

‘‘For the time of the year I am really happy with where I am at — but there’s still work to do before I am ready for Europe.’’

Thompson’s next in action at the Vantage Elite road national champs in Cambridge in three weeks before he heads to France for a training camp with his team, La Conti Groupama-FDJ.

matthew.mckew@scene.co.nz