In Kaden Groves, St George Continental has one of the brightest young Australia sprinters on its books. While a number of young Australian GC prospects and climbers have emerged in recent years, the number of sprinters heading to the pro ranks is sparse by comparison.
Had it not been for a motocross injury in 2015, though, 19-year-old Groves may never have taken up the sport with such aplomb.
"I was racing motorbikes and injured my knee. For the rehab for that, I started riding pushbikes and it led from there. I have just never been back," Groves told Cyclingnews in Malaysia. "I started at my local club on the Sunshine Coast, and it led from there."
Since making the move from motocross, Groves, from Gympie, Queensland, has also explored the track and so far balanced a programme that allows him to explore both disciplines. Groves rides in the Queensland team pursuit alongside the likes of former individual pursuit world champion Jordan Kirby.
Groves' first season with the Continental St George team from the south of Sydney was also his first out of juniors and his first year out of school. His ride at the 2016 Tour de Poyang Lake, judged the largest non-UCI sanctioned race in China, caught the eye of the team and helped land the contract.
"I have still to this day haven't raced a NRS race. Yet I have done numerous UCI tours. St George is really a good stepping stone for me and all the young guys coming through," said Groves, who knew little of the history and personalities of the sport at the beginning of his cycling career.
Starting his 2017 season at the Herald Sun Tour, Groves was then second in the 2.2 Tour de Kumano prologue behind now omnium world champion Szymon Sajnok. A top 10 at the 2.1 Tour of Taihu Lake was next before he claimed a maiden victory at the Tour of Fuzhou to close out his first full year of international racing.
Off the back of his 2017 season, the Tour de Langkawi would be Groves' first major race for his second season with St George. Groves' aspiration in Malaysia is to continue his trajectory with potentially nine stages for the sprinters playing to his strengths. Seventh on stages 1 and 2, Groves was making headway in the highest quality field he has faced to date. However, a crash in the closing kilometres of stage 4 would end his race as he recorded a DNS the following day.
"I was really chasing a result here so I am pretty disappointed to crash out, but that is the way it goes sometimes. I had two sevenths, so I was knocking on the door but that's racing," Groves said of the crash that also ended the race for Dimension Data's Mekseb Debesay.
Still sporting abrasions and bruises from the crash, Groves is yet to receive a full diagnosis of his injuries, with his knee currently the major cause for concern.
"I don't know yet. I haven't got scans on my knee, I am a bit worried about it. I have Tour of Thailand next week, and if my knee clears up I will race that," he said of the six-day race starting April 1.
Like Robbie McEwan and Michael Matthews before him, both of whom came to cycling from BMX and motocross backgrounds, Groves is also hoping to emulate their success on the world stage. And despite his young age, Groves is looking to take "whatever opportunities arise" to reach the top tier of the sport.
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