Back on the bike after enduring tragedy

With the support of his local cycling community and a new bike provided by his academy's equipment...

With the support of his local cycling community and a new bike provided by his academy's equipment sponsor, promising 15 year-old Australian cyclist Alex Tomlinson is back into cycling after being involved in a road accident that claimed the life of his good friend, Ben Mikic. The two teenagers were out training on April 27 when a car turned in front of them as they rode through the Southern Highlands town of Mittagong.

Described as a tragic accident, it took the life of Mikic, who was considered one of New South Wales' strongest young riders. Tomlinson was seriously injured and taken to hospital, but he made a good recovery and returned home. He and Mikic both attended the same college in Bowral, NSW, and were also scholarship holders at the Illawarra Academy of Sport (IAS), the regional sports institution that recognises and helps develop talented athletes.

While Tomlinson was able to recover at home, his bike did not make it and even after witnessing such tragedy, the young rider wanted to get back on a bike and start training again. At this point the IAS equipment sponsor, Excelpro, the Australian distributor of Argon 18 bicycles from Canada, stepped in and organised a new Gallium S3 model which was recently presented to Tomlinson by Josh Kersten, a former graduate of the IAS and a now-retired champion track cyclist.

Josh Kersten, and his brother Ben, currently racing as an invited international rider in Japan's highly competitive keirin series (see his online diary), are both former graduates of the IAS and are also highly involved in the IAS junior cycling development program. "It will get me back into it, pretty much," Tomlinson told local newspaper the Illawarra Mercury. "I just want to get back into it with them and get my fitness back."

The loss of Ben Mikic deeply affected the local cycling community, which has grouped together and formed the Ben Mikic Foundation, which aims to promote road safety and increase awareness among all road users for cycling, as well as support emerging young riders. The tragic loss of another talented young Australian cyclist in a road accident has spread as far as Europe, with leading Australian professional Brad McGee adding his support to the Foundation.

It is organising a fund-raiser to be held on June 24 at the Campbelltown, NSW, electronic games centre, called Zone 3. The night is definitely aimed at young people, or the young at heart, given that it involves teams of 10 players in a round-robin of 'laser-tag'. Please visit the foundation website for more details.

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