At the start of last year, Dion Smith was out of a job. At the start of next year, he'll be at the top of the world cycling mountain.

The Kiwi cyclist has signed a two-year deal with leading World Tour team Mitchelton-Scott – a significant turnaround from how his future looked just 21 months ago.

Back then, Smith was in the lurch – his British team had dropped down a level, leaving him without a team to ride for. Worse, with the professional season about to get underway, there were few jobs available.

"I thought it was over," Smith told De Velo earlier this year. "I was really stressed. I look back at that now and wonder how I came through it and held it together."


How he did so is a testament to the crazy world of cycling – where you need to be lucky and good.

For Smith, his luck came when Dutch veteran Lieuwe Westra retired suddenly, just days before the start of the 2017 season. It opened up a spot with Pro-Continental French team Wanty-Groupe Gobert, and an ecstatic Smith took the opportunity, signing a two-year deal.

Luck received. As for the "good" part of the equation, well there are few better New Zealand riders than Smith. The 25-year-old has been one of the best riders at the Pro-Continental level for the past two years, racking up a slew of impressive results in his stint with Wanty.

This year alone, Smith has finished third overall at the Baloise Belgium Tour, second at Paris-Chauny, earned top 20 overall finishes in classy fields at the Binck Bank Tour and Tour of Britain, and briefly held the iconic polka dot jersey at the Tour de France.

It's enough to create a sense that a breakthrough victory at the top level is not far away, and Mitchelton-Scott agreed.

The Australian outfit has a distinct Kiwi connection - Jack Bauer, Sam Bewley and Georgia Williams ride for the squad, Julian Dean is a sporting director, and the team tried to sign Patrick Bevin and George Bennett earlier this year.

They were rebuffed by New Zealand's top two road cyclists, but why not go and get the next big thing?

"We were looking for a versatile guy and Dion is a pretty versatile character," explained Mitchelton-Scott's head sport director Matt White.


"He can do a bit of everything, he can handle himself in the Flemish Classics, he's fast but not a pure sprinter, he can climb, he is a real racer."

Smith indeed profiles as an all-rounder – a rider who can record top results in uphill finishes and hilly courses. Smith claimed eighth in the Coppa Sabatini in Italy earlier this week, and races overnight at the Marco Pantani Memorial, before he heads to Austria to ride in support of Bennett in the road race at the world championships.

"I can do a bit of everything," Smith told Radio Sport.

"I'm still figuring out what kind of rider I can be, I'm not a pure climber or a pure sprinter, I'm in between and I can show my hand in all sorts of races."

Smith is the fifth Kiwi to lock in a gig on the men's World Tour for 2019, with two current World Tour riders - Bewley and Tom Scully - yet to confirm their futures.

Perhaps fittingly after his earlier dramas, even the way Smith's future was locked in came with some initial uncertainty.

"I initially heard from Mitchelton that they weren't looking for a rider like me, they were more looking for a pure climber.

"But then a few weeks later, an opportunity came about."

Considering how exceptionally Smith grabbed his last opportunity, expect big things in 2019.