While we haven’t seen him handle a bat and ball, we can easily say we are glad Zac Kelly (Hawthorn Cycling Club) made the move from Cricket to Cycling after being sucked into the Melbourne criterium racing scene.
“I had ridden my mountain bike to and from school quite a bit and enjoyed riding but had never done any proper competitive cycling. I got a road bike and got hooked instantly.”
“I then discovered the gem that is the Melbourne criterium scene. That got me hooked into the Victorian Junior Road Series as a top age U15 and has led me to where I am now.”
Going into this weekend’s Eildon Junior Tour, Zach is the JM17 Victorian Leader of the National Junior Road Series after winning the METEC Junior Grand Prix back in June.
“Each time I am on the start line, I try to get the best result for that day, if it’s a win or a podium, great, but if not I’m fairly chill about it.”
Well, he hasn’t had to be too ‘chill’ this year. So far in the Towards Zero Victorian Junior Road Series (VJRS), Zac has had a number of podium finishes and a General Classification title already under his belt.
At last weekend’s Broadford Junior Grand Prix, Zac went tit for tat with Hawthorn Cycling Club teammate, friend, and rival, Dan O’Malley.
“We’re both super competitive with just about everything. We’re evenly matched on the bike, so we make great training partners for each other and we both push each other in anything from a race to a stop sign or having the half wheel world championships.”
Ask most cyclists and their closest competitors in the peloton are also often some of their best friends off the bike and training partners. It’s no different with Zac and Dan.
“Off the bike though is where the competition really starts. Whether it’s racing down to our local Souv [Souvlaki] shop on a Friday, seeing the first one to finish a large HSP [Halal Snack Pack] or a Mario Kart tournament we can make it into the Olympics.”
Zac and Dan will once again line up together for the four-stage Eildon Junior Tour this weekend.
“I’ve been looking forward to the Eildon Junior Tour even since it ended last year. It’s the coolest tour there is and I’m super excited for it. The short hill climb on Friday afternoon makes for some super hard racing that is quite rare and there are not many other races like it.”
The Eildon Junior Tour offers the mass start hill climb to challenge the riders and offer something that is not offered in any other race throughout the VJRS. At its peak, the climb up Mount Pinniger has a gradient of 13%.
Saturday is a double-stage day with a time trial in the morning followed by a road race in the afternoon.
“The longer time trial [14km] should hopefully play to my strengths to help me gain time. I certainly love the time trial more than any other discipline. Something about just the rider and the bike against the clock where there’s nowhere to hide. The only person there to smash you is your own mind.”
On Sunday spectators can enjoy the picturesque views of Lake Eildon during the Skyline Road Race, while the pelotons tackle a challenging and technical course.
“The skyline road race will be really exciting to see how it plays out with the climb being so long followed by a technical decent it allows for interesting tactics to be played with on the climb as there’s still a very long way to the finish line after the bottom of the decent.”
The Eildon Junior Tour has a history of producing some of our world-class Victorian cyclists who have gone on to race in the World Tour.
With time trial, road race and criterium national championship titles up for grabs at the Junior Road National Championships in September, Zac is a contender for a spot on the Team Victoria State Team, however, the main goal at the moment is to just have a fun time on the bike.
“This year I’m trying my best to develop myself as a person both on and off the bike. I’m keeping my cycling goals quite broad, so I can have fun while not taking it too seriously.”
“I’m not that sure where I’ll end up in this world or with my cycling but for the time being I’m just trying to have fun whilst always doing as best I can in each race. Seems to be a successful formula so far so I’ll just see if it can eventually take me anywhere eventually.”
As a top-age J17 rider, Zac will be starting to think about his future within cycling nonetheless. Zac says the Victorian Junior Road Series is important to the development of any young cyclist in Australia.
“I think it’s absolutely crucial and it’s great that Cycling Victoria provides such a great series at the grassroots level. I love the processes of a tour with everything flowing smoothly. I’m a bit nervous to make the jump to U19s next year but I’m so thankful that I’ve got the VJRS as a stepping stone that follows the same format of the highly successful VRS to make the transition so much easier.”
While the Tour de France is officially underway, Zac says he doesn’t, in fact, follow much professional racing on the television but he does have a favourite rider in Cyclo-cross turned road star Mathieu van de Poel.
“I don’t watch that much pro cycling on TV or anything, but his performances are pretty unbelievable and hard to miss. I love the way he races off instinct and not by numbers. It’s pretty exciting to see riders like him stray away from the predictable style of racing which we see far too much of.”