Grassroots Trust Waikato Bay of Plenty Performance Hub sprinters Sam Dakin and Tahlay Christie are in the final throes of preparation for the Tissot UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Cambridge where they will debut at track cycling’s premier racing series.
Dakin and Christie were the benefactors of the Cycling New Zealand national sprint trial held in mid-December, where the fastest riders on the day secured themselves automatic spots on the two trade teams Cycling New Zealand has entered into the fifth round of the Tissot UCI Track Cycling World Cup held at the Avantidrome on 18-20 January.
That means they will swap their distinctive Grassroots Trust kit for specially designed skinsuits to represent the Subway New Zealand and Team Vantage New Zealand trade teams. The Subway team, made up of all female riders, will wear blue while the Team Vantage squad will ride in green.
With less than a week until racing starts, the pair are both buoyed with excitement on the eve of their biggest competition to date.
“It’s been one of my dreams for as long as I can remember and now it’s becoming a reality,” says Christie, who made the decision to leave behind her family in Perth to join the Cycling New Zealand development programme in 2018.
“This is everything I have been working towards since I started riding my bike,” said Dakin. “I am just looking forward to executing well and enjoying the moment that comes along with that. It’s been so much fun to this point and although the hard work is only just beginning it’s a super exciting step.”
Dakin and Christie are fortunate that their first World Cup experience will be at home, a rare occasion for the top flight of New Zealand’s track cyclists. They will be cheered on by numerous friends and family who have bought tickets to come and watch the pair live out their dreams, as well as the raucous Kiwi crowd expected to fill the stadium with noise come race day.
Debuting in front of this home crowd isn’t the one that Christie pictured when she was cutting her teeth in the sport in Australia.
“It’s a funny feeling for me,” she explains. “I was struggling with adjusting to calling Cambridge ‘home’ after having lived in Australia my entire life, but from day one, I’ve been surrounded by so many incredible people. The amount of love and support I’ve received after making the move has been astounding and overwhelming in the best kind of ways. I couldn’t be more proud to race my first World Cup in front of a home crowd.
“Unfortunately my dad can’t make it, but my mum is gonna be cheering for the two of them. My parents have given me so much and I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Gaining their places via trial was a new concept for both riders, but one that didn’t seem to deter either of them from performing at their best. Christie posted personal best times in the standing 250m and flying 200m and will partner Olivia Podmore in the team sprint. Dakin was third in the standing 250m and flying 500m, earning him a spot in the squad with New Zealand high performance riders Zac Williams and Bradly Knipe.
“The trial is a really good concept to help create some real depth within sprint cycling in New Zealand. It gives those coming through an opportunity to show what they can lay down in a pressure situation and see where they stack up against the best in New Zealand, who are some of the best riders in the world,” said Dakin.
On hearing she’d made the team to compete in Cambridge, Christie’s first call was to her dad back in Australia.“ He got me into the sport and has been one of my biggest supporters throughout what feels like a lifetime of riding for me. I’ve put so much into chasing my goals and aspirations in the sport, and it all felt worth it when I told him I’d done it.”
Dakin admits it didn’t sink in right away, but it was surreal when it did.
“It’s been a long road to get to this point so for it to finally come together was a surreal feeling. Without my family I wouldn’t be able to do any of this so to hear the elation in their voices when I told them was something very special. It’s a moment they will stick with me for years to come.”
Making the step up into the high performance environment, Dakin and Christie have been fully immersing themselves in what it means to be a professional athlete.
“I have been sore and exhausted after training, and to me, that’s one of the best feelings there is. The training’s been hard, but being surrounded by athletes and staff who are doing everything they can to make magic happen is so motivating and inspirational,” said Christie.
“We are lucky enough to be training with some of the world’s best riders, so training with them every day just gives you the want and need to push yourself just a little bit deeper,” Dakin added.
Dakin and Christie will ride the team sprint competition on Friday 18 January, while Dakin will also compete in the keirin competition on Saturday.
A two for one special on morning session tickets is available until Thursday 17 January via Ticketek. Tickets to evening sessions can also be purchased through Ticketek.