He’s broken national records in every junior age group he’s raced in, won a handful of national titles and recently finished ahead of the elite field at the 2012 New Zealand championships, but 20-year-old Michael Vink is still yet to break into the elite ranks of professional cycling.
A frustrating year with Trek-Livestrong, that helped launch the career of countryman George Bennett, proved far less fruitful for Vink who struggled to adapt to the American squad’s base at altitude in Boulder, Colorado, making his 2011 almost a complete write-off.
"I had blood tests before I left [NZ] and after I came back," said Vink to Cyclingnews. "Despite living at altitude all season, my body had never adapted – my blood levels were the same.
"It was obvious all year that I wasn’t right, and by the time the season was finished I sort of realised what was wrong. By then I couldn’t do anything about it."
But in a new season and a new year, a composed Vink has his eyes still firmly set on "getting the results he needs". Though the Livestrong chapter of his career is now closed, his pursuit of that elusive contract remains as stubbon as ever.
"I’ve always been motivated by the challenge. Whatever I’ve done I’ve wanted to be the best I can, and for cycling that means turning professional. So that’s always been the goal."
To that end, Vink, who also has Dutch heritage, will ride in Belgium this year with the amateur VL Technics team where he hopes to make inroads in the UCI 1.2 races the team will be competing in. The Beverbeek Classic is the first on his calendar, and one the young talent believes he can do well in while he is carrying the southern hemisphere's summer form still in the legs.
Belgium, he hopes will be but a truck stop in career progression, with his aim to rejoin the continental ranks sooner rather than later fuelled by his love for stage racing, an area where the New Zealander believes his ability to time trial and climb allows him to excel.
"Those areas are generally where I’ve enjoyed myself the most. I’ve been time trialling for a long time, so I guess it comes a bit more naturally to me than perhaps others, but I really like 'tour' racing, and I think that’s where I can do well in the future."
Vink leaves for the team's Belgian base later next week as he readies himself for another six month stint overseas. At 20, he has the determination and mental fortitude that generally come with a maturity beyond his years, and he considers the time away from family and friends as just another consequence of his objective to join Hayden Roulston, Jack Bauer, Jesse Sergent, George Bennett, Greg Henderson and Julian Dean at the top.
"I’m going to do whatever I have to do to get a contract. If that means a one year commitment [over here in Belgium], or a two year commitment then so be it. I’m not so worried about when, I’m confident I can get there, it’ll happen when it happens."