Budget Forklifts' Jesse Kerrison may have just secured his third sprint classification from as many Subaru National Road Series (NRS) events from the Santos North Western Tour, but the 19-year-old warns that it's a small sign of what's to come.
While he is in his first season with Budget Forklifts and the NRS with Battle on the Border, Adelaide Tour and last week's North Western Tour supposedly a training ground for years ahead but Kerrison's ability has so far surpassed all expectations. Kerrison added to his intermediate sprint haul with a stage victory in Narrabri last week to claim his first victory in the series, improving on his previous stage best, a third place at the Battle on the Border last month. Budget Forklifts' manager Cameron Watt labelled the win as a "bonus" with the team focused on providing Kerrison with experience.
"I think I was really lucky at North West to have Jack Anderson with me and Sam Horgan," Kerrison told Cyclingnews. "They've done [lead-outs] it so many times and knew exactly where to be. I think following their lead was really good for me."
Kerrison comes from a track background, rising through the ranks in the same age group as Caleb Ewan who is being touted as Australia's next big thing in road sprinting. Kerrison probably had the edge on his rival at first but a move to track endurance turned the tables. The Queenslander's talent on the boards was undeniable but something was missing, and Kerrison pursued his passion for the road.
"To be honest, the training for sprinting was just too boring," he explained. "In a week you'd do the same effort 100 times and there was just no variety and no fun in it for me."
Since then, the results have started to trickle in but the turning point on the road came with Kerrison's overall win in the Battle on the Border last season, before the event was elevated to NRS status for 2013. Since, the Gold Coast rider has also gone on to take the state Under 23 Criterium Championship.
It goes without saying that Kerrison is now having fun, despite the odd run in with some of the resident hot heads in the NRS peloton.
"All racing is fraught with dangers like that but I'm looking forward to it," said Kerrison laughing in response to his on-going battle with GPM Data#3 sprinter Scott Law. "It's a good competition we've got going."
As the NRS takes a break until the end of July, Kerrison will continue to race the Queensland Road Series which Budget Forklifts is currently dominating with the sprinter and Jack Anderson holding onto the top two places on GC. Kerrison is also leading the sprint classification and holds a sizeable advantage over Law in the young rider classification.
When the NRS resumes, it will be with traditionally more of a sprinting focus with the Tour of Gippsland (July 31 - August 4), the Tour of the Great South Coast (August 14 - 18) and Tour of the Murray River (September 3 - 8) and Kerrison is hoping to put more of a focus on stage wins, as much as he is enjoying his run of sprint classification success.
"I think we've got a great team coming through at the moment," he said. "I guess you could say that we're learning to ride with each other. Every time we're riding together we're getting better and better. The last stage of North West, even though it wasn't for the win because the break was up the road, the lead out we did was perfect so hopefully we can take through against all the other teams. There could be some really good racing coming up."
Those races should also signal a return to the NRS for marquee sprinter Anthony Giacoppo (Huon Salmon - Genesys Wealth Advisers), someone Kerrison is keen to go head-to-head with.
"I haven't really had a full-blooded sprint with him," he explained. "There was the Battle stage but I completely screwed up the lead in so I'm really interested to see how I can go against him."
What Kerrison does know at the moment is that he has the speed to match the likes of the best in the NRS - Law, Van Der Ploeg and Giacoppo. The difference he believes is in experience and strength but at 19, he can only improve.
"They've all definitely got a lot more experience than me," Kerrison admitted. "Especially Neil and Anthony - I reckon they're a lot stronger than me but I think while I'm still developing, that I'm there or there abouts at the moment. Over the next couple of years I should be with them every single time."