Ross on track to join the best

By Cameron Leslie

Elite level sport is all about stepping up to the challenge, which is exactly what Northland BMX rider Donald Ross has done.

After almost a year ago finishing sixth in his age group at the UCI BMX World Championships in England, Ross has stepped into a new racing category and is still right up there.

Ross now races in the junior elite division, meaning he is one level below the best BMX riders in the world such as Olympic silver medallist Sarah Walker.

The 17-year-old, who was named in the New Zealand team earlier this month to compete in the world championships in Auckland in July, said he has come a long way since first hearing the gates drop at the Whangarei BMX track as a 7-year-old.

"It gets all serious now," said Ross. "[The goal is a] top-16 finish. I'm racing up an age now. All the other years it's been 15 or 16 [age graded racing] - so I'll be racing older riders. It's always challenging but as soon as you get on the gate they're just another rider."

Ross' strength and conditioning coach, Jason Ruddell, believes Ross is able to make the step up into the junior elite grade comfortably if he continues to work hard.

"Big thing for Don [Ross] is he has a goal of going to the Olympics and carving out a professional riding career," Ruddell said.

"For him it's all about getting bigger, stronger and faster. [Because when] you look at the main guys and they're big."

Ruddell said recent upgrades at Whangarei's BMX track have helped in Ross' training.

Ross' class and potential can be seen by the addition of top bike manufacturer YESS BMX, and New Zealand Home Loans, jumping on board his ride.

Joining Ross at the world championships in Auckland will be 31 of his clubmates, who have been picked in their respective age divisions after being deemed in the top 32 in New Zealand.

As hosts, New Zealand are entitled to up to 32 riders in some classes in the championships, which has resulted in an unprecedented level of interest in the qualifying events.

Whangarei BMX Club secretary Paula Romer said the selection of 31 Northlanders is credit to their dedication to the sport, as most have been riding since they were young. Romer said the youngest rider was 4 years old, with the oldest being in their mid-40s, adding that for some it was likely to be their first and last chance to represent New Zealand on a BMX.

The championships are expected to attract 2500 riders from more than 30 countries.

Northlanders in New Zealand age grade teams: Amy Wright, Chevaughn Snowden, Emily Darroch, Julia Carter-Bell, Madison Eruera, Tyla Dinsdale, Cameron Furze, Jack Barton-Smith, Hunter Dobson, Barton Smith, Oliver Morris, Braedan Snowden, James Taylor, Josh Marker, Daniel Romer, Angus Darroch, Ben Wright, Jordan Furze, Harry Marker, Jacob Romer, Bradley Harman, David Marker, Nathan Hooker, Anthony Carter-Bell, Michael Watson, Anthony Gysberts, Glen Campbell, Lance Dinsdale, Wade Snowden, Anthony Gysberts, Greg Morris, Donald Ross (junior elite).

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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