Marsden Wheelers are on a high. Two more of the Whangarei cycling club's junior riders have been selected for national squads, based on impressive achievements over the past few months. Ben Johnstone, 14, was selected for the Under-17 New Zealand boys' squad to ride at the prestigious DBR Australia 2011 Junior and Women's Canberra Tour from July 8-10, while 17-year-old Alice Riddell was picked for the NZ Under-17 Girls' development squad, who will contest the PowerCo Tour at Taranaki over Queen's Birthday Weekend (June 4-6). Added to this, Marsden Wheelers junior coach Ruth Jarman - who coaches Riddell - was chosen to coach the NZ Under-17 Girls development squad along with Katri Laike.
"Since 2007 we have had four riders [(Sam Weston, Mathew Zenovich, Johnstone and Riddell] chosen for the national squads ... it shows that what we have been doing with our juniors in Whangarei is working and that we have been noticed on the national scene. It is wonderful a small club like ours can still get top-quality athletes into the national squads," Jarman said. Johnstone - a student at Pompallier College - has already had an exceptional start to what is his first year racing in the Under-17 boys grade. National selection was based on how riders performed at several key events - the Te Awamutu Junior Tour last month, and last week's RaboDirect Club Road Nationals, in Wanganui.
Coached by his father, Ian, Johnstone completed the Tour second overall in his age group and then at the nationals, he placed fourth in the Under-17 15km time trial, with his time of 21:36.23 - just 15 seconds behind a bronze medal placing. Johnstone rode home with the bunch to a seventh place in the 66km Under-17 road race. Meanwhile, Riddell, riding in her first major competitive event at Te Awamutu, impressed selectors with her resilience.
In the final 60km stage, Riddell crashed within 500m of the finish but remounted and held sixth on general classification. She also nabbed a second stage second place. "Since the Tour, Alice has been riding with a new confidence," Jarman, who coaches the young Whangarei Girls' High School talent, said. "To get a girl in the squad from Marsden Wheelers is particularly pleasing for me ... we all think she has so much potential. "She will be looking to stay in the squad and move into the Under-19s next year."
Riddell did not race at the Club Road Nationals, but another Marsden Wheelers rider executed a bronze medal performance - Auckland-based Roger Grierson, who stormed home in the Under-23 40km road race.
Marsden Wheelers now have 15 riders in the junior squad - an all-time high, Jarman said, and further testimony to how well the club is performing. Most of these juniors - along with the region's best school-aged riders will be in action today at the Northland Secondary Schools Championships.
The Championships get underway with time trials for the Under-15, Under-17, and Under-20 age groups, from 10.45am, starting outside Kokopu School, while the road race events begin at 11.40am on Kokopu Rd, near the end of Kara Rd.