A young Taupō BMX rider with international aspirations has had a huge boost to his dreams, being named as a member of the New Zealand BMX National Performance Hub.
The BMX hub is one of eight Cycling New Zealand performance hubs around the country which aim to help sustain the future success of high performance cycling by increasing the quality and quantity of young riders moving into the elite tier. There are six regional cycling hubs as well as hubs for mountain bike and BMX.
Jono Sargison, 16, a year 11 student at Tauhara College, spent six days in Te Awamutu and Cambridge last week at his first BMX hub camp, training with other riders aged from 15 to 19 from around the country in a full-on but enjoyable week.
Jono, who finished fourth in the New Zealand under-16 20 category at the 2018 BMX New Zealand Nationals in New Plymouth over Easter, applied for the performance hub earlier this year and spent several days trialling during the last school holidays, but wasn't confident of his chances of being accepted.
"I sort of just heard about it and then all my friends were doing it so I thought I might as well join in.
"There were heaps of really fast riders that didn't get in so I was quite surprised when I got in ... I was pretty happy."
Jono's father Scott says the competition for places was intense and the riders of a high calibre, although results were only one of the aspects the selectors looked for.
"I think probably the things that stood out for Jono was the technical skills and his positive attitude."
The hub is free for the 15 riders who are accepted, but they have to get themselves to and from the camps and training sessions. It is coached by former professional rider Matt Cameron.
The hub squad divided its time between the track in Te Awamutu and the Velodrome in Cambridge. It did team building activities, fun outings such as paint ball, trained at the gym and practised skills such as start gates, corners and lines. It was busy, with the days beginning at 9am and going through to 4pm or 5pm, but it was also fun.
"It was really cool. I got to hang out with all my friends ... but it was quite full on. I came home pretty tired."
From now on, Jono will be spending plenty of time on the road between Taupo and the Waikato, with at least one gym or track session in Cambridge or Te Awamutu each week.
There will be some compulsory BMX meets Jono will have to attend around the country and possibly a trip to Australia next year. Scott says while it's a bit of a commitment, Jono is always motivated. He never has to be reminded to train and even on the days he has work experience instead of school he will be gone at 7am, work all day and then go out to the track in the evening and do sprints before rising early the next day to get in a gym session before school.
Jono took up BMX at the age of nine when the family was living in Gisborne after driving past the local BMX track with his family. Seven years later he's been through a few bikes — he currently rides a Pro XL — and his parents Scott and Kylie and younger brother Bennett have also taken up the sport. Scott and Kylie have held national titles in their age groups and Bennett is the current North Island number two.
Jono's medium term goal is to next year move into the junior elite class with its gap jumps and pro sections and make a national final in his age group at the BMX Nationals. Longer term, he is aiming to be selected to go to a World Cup competition.
His parents are proud of the work their son puts in, even if he does beat them on his bike.
"I don't even bother any more," Scott says. "I can beat him out of the gate for the first 2m but that's all. He started beating me when he was 13 and there was a stage where I just gave up racing him."
Jono is supported by a Team Taupō Scholarship.