Taking out Stage 7 of the Tour of Gippsland wasn't just another stage win for Jordan Kerby (Jayco-Honey Shotz). There was more to it than that.
Gippsland, first round of the Scody Cup and fourth stop on the Australian National Road Series (NRS) was another opportunity for the soon-to-be 20-year-old to prove himself on a road bike.
Kerby riding as part of the Australian national team, won the Prologue at the Tour of Thailand in April before taking out the first stage at the Mersey Valley Tour in Tasmania, the first event on the NRS calendar, and then the Prologue of the North Western Tour - all wins against the clock with very little time trial-specific training.
"I had a couple of wins earlier in the year but they were in time trials so I was pretty excited to win on a road bike," the Queenslander told Cyclingnews. "Especially to get over Darren Lapthorne because he is such a great rider; he was a national road champion at one point. I was mainly just excited and relieved to get a stage win."
Speak to Kerby's inner circle and you get a picture of a very single-minded, focussed individual. He's been racing since he was 10 and if there's been a constant, it's that his opposition has been older, and more experienced. Kerby has had to develop his fight and works hard at it. He came to the attention of The Queensland Academy of Sport head coach James Victor at under-15 level and as a second-year under 17 was granted a full scholarship. In 2011, in his first year with an Australian Institute of Sport scholarship was blighted by poor health.
"Sometimes you can't get the runs on the board and it kind of brings you down," Kerby explained. The experience followed a stellar 2010 where Kerby had been a part of the Australian team pursuit which won gold at the Junior World Track Championships, and individually he won the points race. At the time, he was well on the way to becoming a track specialist, hot on the heels of the endurance squad which this year rode to a silver medal at the Olympic Games.
"I didn't back myself," Kerby explained. "I saw guys like Michael Hepburn and Jack Bobridge, [Rohan] Dennis and [Cameron] Meyer and those guys and thought that if they stay in the game for another year or two, then I won't be stepping up any time soon. I thought spots would be filled.
"I looked up to them so much and didn't think I could match it with those guys for a while."
Take into account that Alex Edmondson, who was fifth man for the team in London, is a year below Kerby and it's a situation which could prove haunting. But not for Kerby.
"I admire Alex, he's a super-freak the way he's come along since under 19s," he admitted. "It's pretty much unheard of to be riding that well at that age.
"You can't have regrets in this sport. You just have to move forward all the time and keep thinking positive. I might go back. The track is something that I love. I love the speed, the way it's raced and the tactics behind it."
The experience of 2011 hardened him and with the clock ticking, he knows he needs results if he's to earn a spot racing in Europe next season.
The team that Kerby won gold with at worlds two years ago - Edward Bissaker, Jackson Law and Mitchell Lovelock-Fay - is now racing with him at Jayco-Honey Shotz, a Eclipse Pro Cycling team which partners Cycling Australia's High Performance program with the aim of providing an additional stepping stone for young road talent aiming toward selection into under 23 National teams and the Jayco-AIS Continental Team. Jack Beckinsale, David Edwards, Bradley Linfield and Edmondson are also part of the squad.
Beckinsale secured another win for the the Jayco-Honey Shotz outfit on Stage 6 of Gippsland, shrewdly getting his nose in front in a bunch sprint. They're capable when it comes to the NRS but it can get a little chaotic with much of that coming from inexperience as it collides with hunger.
"We're getting a lot better at that and I think that's also because we're learning from the RBS Morgans - ATS guys [the senior Eclipse Pro Cycling squad - Ed.] because they're a lot older and a lot more experienced," Kerby said. "We're learning a lot of team tactics from them as well. Mainly I put it down to the fact that we're all young guys and we're all trying to get results.
"Say if it's coming down to a sprint, we'll try and look out for Bissaker or Jackson but it's sort of horses for courses with our team. If something suits one guy, we'll look out for that fella'."
With Jayco - Honey Shotz not racing next week's Tour of the Great South Coast, next stop for Kerby is once again with the national team where he will join Edwards and Bissaker at the Tour of Suzuka in Japan. Given his recent stint in the NRS, Kerby believes he will be well-prepared.
"To be honest, NRS is similar in the way because everyone's fighting for position and trying to get to the front," he told Cyclingnews. "The only difference is that there's a lot more road racing over there whereas there's a lot of crits here. In the last 10kms it's pretty much the same."
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