The past 18 months have been a whirlwind for young New Zealander Jesse Sergent - an Olympic bronze medal and a season on the Trek-Livestrong team have catapulted the 21-year-old to prominence and he's aiming to use that momentum to continue the success for the folks from 'Aotearoa'.
New Zealand's performance in the team pursuit at last year's Beijing Olympic came as a complete surprise to many observers - the men in black preferred it that way; the quiet confidence which surrounded them helped when it came to beating old rivals Australia for the bronze medal. "With the team pursuit, you know what kind of times you're doing in training and whether you're going to be in the mix or not; it's not like the points race, where you can't go and do a time and get an indication whether it's going to be up there," Sergent told Cyclingnews.
"We kind of knew in the build up and it gave us so much confidence going into world championships and world cups this year but we need to make sure we keep progressing and keep moving forward," he added. What most fans didn't consider in their reckoning is the increasing youthful depth within the country's cycling stocks. The team of Hayden Roulston, Marc Ryan, Sam Bewley and Sergent had an average age of 23.5 in Beijing, an exciting prospect for the future of kiwi cycling.
"The [team pursuit] times have come on quite quickly," said Sergent. "Going into the Olympics we set pretty high goals of getting a medal and most people thought it would be crazy for New Zealand to get a medal at the Olympics. Once we got the bronze it gave us so much confidence moving forward," he explained.
For Sergent, his Olympic performance resulted in a ride for the Trek-Livestrong development squad, established under the guiding eye of Lance Armstrong and managed by former professional Axel Merckx. Sergent will continue riding for the outfit in 2010 and said he couldn't be happier with the team. "Life in Boulder is awesome - I couldn't have really asked for any better setup than what I have there," he said. "The Trek-Livestrong team gives us everything we could wish for and Boulder's awesome for training and there are so many pros living there, plus massage therapists and everything you need. I've definitely got no complaints."
As Trek-Livestrong teammate and fellow track rider Taylor Phinney continues to ride the boards throughout his development, so too will Sergent. With a medal in the team pursuit at next year's world championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, a very real chance for New Zealand, the focus will be on maximising the squad's potential for both worlds and the Commonwealth Games in India next October.
"Next on the calendar is world championships, which is a pretty big goal for all of us. The main objective for next year is going to be the Commonwealth Games, mainly because that's the biggest event in New Zealand outside the Olympic Games," said Sergent. "For the New Zealand media, the sponsors and the people backing us it's really important we get a good result there."
And while Sergent represents the latest generation of New Zealand's cycling talent, there's a suitable mix of experience and youth in the ranks, something that is being capitalised upon by the nation's cycling management. "We still look up to guys like Rouly [Hayden Roulston] and Hendy [Greg Henderson] and now we've got so much support from SPARC (Sport and Recreation New Zealand), BikeNZ, the [New Zealand] Academy of Sport and RaboPlus," he explained.
"We've got a massive support team that goes away with us and I think that's one of the biggest differences we've got - sports scientists that are always looking to develop new training techniques and massage therapists who are finding new recovery protocols... stuff like that. It's all just the little things, really, that are adding up at the moment."