Teenager Georgia Williams heads to her first professional European cycling experience buoyed by the knowledge her elevation to the elite ranks has met with considerable success.
The Auckland rider will join crack Italian professional team Be Pink this month, spending seven months with the Milan-based outfit. The 19-year-old completed her individual racing at the national track cycling championships with a brace of podium performances to seal an outstanding second summer in the elite division.
She was seventh in the women's 10km scratch race on the third night of finals at the Stadium Southland Velodrome in Invercargill last night. It followed two podium placings on the first two nights while she was the most aggressive rider in the scratch race, with two strong solo breaks.
Williams won silver behind Olympians Jaime Nielsen in the elite 3000m individual pursuit and Lauren Ellis in the 20km points race. It completed an outstanding summer that began with victory in the New Zealand elite criterium national championships on home turf in December. She followed this with third in the elite 25km time trial behind Linda Villumsen and Nielsen and second in the elite road race at the national road championships in Christchurch.
"I am rapt, to tell the truth," Williams said. "Last summer was my first in elite racing but I wasn't in form. It is hard to go from road racing to track and I am really happy I've managed to get some success at both. I am unsure how I have done it but I am pretty happy. I have the team pursuit on Sunday so hopefully we can win that one. Then it is a case of getting organised to go to Italy."
She has received tips from Kaytee Boyd who rode for the same Italian team three years ago, then Selle Italia-Ghezzi.
"It's something I've always wanted to do but I kind of expected to race in America for the next few years first; going straight to Europe is just awesome because that's where all the best cycling is."
She won silver in the team pursuit at the 2010 junior world championships, and has her sights set on selection on the track for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Meanwhile, Olympian Natasha Hansen showed her class to claim her first title of the championships in the women's keirin final. She was at the back of the pack but produced a fierce burst on the final lap to round the pack and hold off the late charge from Auckland's Paige Patterson.