Robertson Riding free

-Story courtesy of College Sport Media 


Elliot Robertson loves the liberty and isolation of riding his bike. Every Saturday he’ll trek 150km unphased by the sometimes low regard cyclists are held in central Wellington.

“It’s almost always the driver’s fault, especially in rush hour. It’s strange how shockingly angry people get with cyclists. I reckon it’s because they can’t drive properly,” Robertson laughed.

That harsh rebuke has merit coming from the National and North Island Under-17 road racing champion.

Robertson started cycling while in intermediate at Scots College. He was introduced to the sport by teacher Susan Levitt and derived immediate enjoyment. It wasn’t until one of those Saturday rides however when his standard went to the next level.

“Before this year I had a series of good placings in big races without ever winning anything. One afternoon I was out riding and passed James Canny. He caught up to me and asked if I rode competitively. We met for coffee and he invited me onto his team.”

James Canny grew up with a dream of being a pro cyclist. His dream was abruptly terminated when he was hit by a drunk driver in 2003. Following an arduous recovery, James managed to return to racing at an elite level in the USA, but the lasting impact from his injuries limited his racing potential. Returning to New Zealand, and finding it difficult to join a local team, the corporate lawyer founded the New Zealand Cycling Project or MitoQ. The team raced in the 2020 Tour of Southland and has assisted a number of riders competing both locally and abroad.

“James invited me aboard as a longshot apprentice and that’s when I decided to take things more seriously. I  train between 13 and 15 hours a week. I really appreciate their (Mum & James) support and try to show value by improving all the time.”

Robertson won the National Under-17 road race in Rotorua in April. In a hundred-plus field he edged out Auckland opposition in a breakthrough triumph. Last month, with a target on his back, he competed in the Skoda North Island Championships in Cambridge and once again the result was startling.

“It was a 60 km road race in Cambridge. Five loops of a set course with a big hill in the middle. We started in the morning by Lake Karapiro where it was freezing. I was in a group which pulled away from the rest. We struck together until the end where my legs managed to carry me home.

“I’m not a big gym guy, I’m a leaner, faster rider so to be able to finish like I did was really awesome.”

The Tour of Southland at the end of October is a grueling and prestigious eight-stage (865km) race held annually since 1956. Olympic medalist Hayden Roulston is a four-time winner. Robertson was third in the Yunca Junior tour last year, will compete in the same competition in 2021.

“The tour of Southland is a big race for me. I can’t compete in the actual tour until I’m 18, but two races a day, terrible weather and longer distances is a great mental and physical challenge. I’m aiming for a big result,” Robertson warned.

The 2020 College Sport Wellington cyclist of the year enjoys physical education and economics at school.

Robertson wasn’t the only Wellington rider to feature prominently at the North Island Championships. Millie Donald (Kapiti College) was second in both the U15 road and criterium races. Maddie Stephenson (St Matthews College) and Leroux van der Leek (Rathkeale College) were in the top ten of the same events in the U14 race as was Alex Foden (Onslow College) in the U16 class. In May Camden Feint (Kapiti College) joined the Grenoble Metropole Cyclisme 38 (GMC38) Cycling Club in France. The French seem to regard cycling as essential to the national interest, so as an elite cyclist, Cam has an exemption certificate to the lockdown rules there. Feint said the cycling is really exciting, and his team have already tested him out on the climbs in the mountains, some of which are famous because of the Tour de France.