Ben Grenda's Australian national title in the under-23 men's criterium yesterday was testament to how hard he has worked over the last few years. The 20-year old has developed quickly as a cyclist and still can't believe he is an Australian champion.
"I'm thrilled to win a national title," Grenda told Cyclingnews. "It was good waking up and seeing the gold medal next to me. It really hasn't sunk in yet. When the championships are over I'll look back and appreciate the win more but at the moment, my focus is on the road race tomorrow."
A double could be on the cards for the Launceston cyclist. He finished 11th last year in the under-23 road race and believes he is fitter and better prepared this year.
"This year I am much fitter and feeling better. I was dropped on the last lap in 2010 and if I can get over the climbs tomorrow, I think I will be able to sprint very well."
Ben Grenda is a fourth generation cyclist, the 'Grenda' name being one of the most renouned names in Australian cycling.
Grenda's great, great uncle, Alfred was a World Tandem Championship winner with Walter de Maria in 1912. He enjoyed success in Six Day races from 1914-1920 and his victories were due to sublime strength.
Alf's nephew, Ron was a similar rider. He won the Latrobe Wheel Race in 1971 including some six-day events (including one at Launceston). He won three national sprint titles during his career.
Ben's father, Michael, the son of Ron won a few Tasmanian and National titles as well as gold medals in the 4000-metre team pursuit at the 1982 Commonwealth and 1984 Olympic Games.
Grenda started racing when he was 10 years old - he wanted to ride bikes but his father wasn't keen on the idea because he knew how hard the sport can be physically and mentally in addition to the commitment required and dangers involved in cycling.
"My dad didn't want me to ride at first but when he realised I wanted to ride, he bought me a track bike and put brakes on it and I used it as a track and road bike for a few years and went from there," Grenda explained.
Grenda joined Genesys Wealth Advisers (formerly Praties) in 2009 and over the last two years has matured as a cyclist, standing on the podium 10 times in 2010 and picking up a stage win in the inaugural Tour of Toowoomba and the Tour of Tasmania. His biggest win last year came in the Goulburn – Citi, one of Australia's best classics.
He will head off to Belgium in two weeks to race with Belgium amateur team, Rock Werchter-Mechelen and he praised the work that Steve Price and Andrew Christie-Johnston have done over the last 10 years to build an Australian development cycling team.
"To win the national title in Genesys colours is an awesome feeling. Andrew and Steve have worked extremely hard over the last decade. They have helped me immensely over the last two years to develop as a cyclist and if it wasn't for them I wouldn't have been able to get to races."
Genesys Wealth Advisers have produced two ProTour riders in the last two years in Richie Porte and William Clarke and if Grenda has a strong year in Belgium, he could very well be the next one to follow in his former team-mates footsteps.
"A dream would be to turn professional so we'll see how the next few years pan out," he said.