World class track cyclist Dylan Kennett, axed by the New Zealand selectors, is keen to prove he is equally proficient on the road.
The 25-year-old showed his all-round talent winning the Te Awamutu Sports Cycling Club's A-grade road championship over five laps of the Puahue, Parklands, Chamberlain, Long roads circuit.
Kennett attacked into a downhill tailwind with about 2.5km to go, slipping away on his own to record an eye-catching win over a star-studded field.
"It was a pretty fast start to the race and my plan was to sit in and pretty much save energy for the final lap where the important part of the race begins," he told the Courier.
"I'd won the Hamilton club TT [time trial] the day before and my training had been tracking very nicely so I was racing to get the win.
"On the final lap, I put in a few digs and noticed that there were a lot of tired legs."
Kennett's time for the 85km was 1hr 53m 36s, finishing two seconds ahead of James Harvey (the Spoken Cycles sponsored TASC winter series winner), Daniel Bridgwater and George Jackson who finished in that order.
"This year's winter series has been full of very strong fields every week, and the TA club champs was another strong one which always makes it that bit more special," said the newly crowned club champion.
"I don't think any other club in New Zealand can match the calibre of riders we get every club race here."
Kennett said it was great to get some good racing in considering he was not in good condition at the start of the series.
"I think I was one of the very few cyclists that didn't train the house down during lockdown. I actually had 10 weeks off the bike waiting for a saddle sore to heal so the first few races I was struggling to keep up. It's been nice to be able to see and feel the improvement over the weeks and get a win"
Kennett has been controversially overlooked by the national selectors, limiting his prospects of competing at the Olympics in Japan.
"I myself have not ruled it out but it does seem like Cycling NZ have made it and will continue to make it a very steep uphill battle for me," he said.
"At the start of lockdown, I was removed from the New Zealand men's team pursuit squad with all funding and even my carding level removed.
"I'm still unsure of the reasoning but that is all I'll say on it for now but one day I think I'll write a book on my experiences over the years."
Right now, Kennett says he is enjoying his own full freedom to focus on training properly for the road and he is really starting to see the improvements.
"Funny enough, I've seen them already in my track racing too."
Kennett is doing his best to keep motivated and in top shape during these uncertainties, with the virus preventing Kiwi riders currently in NZ from competing overseas.
"It is a bit hard with no overseas racing to strive for. For me, with no funding, I was looking to win UCI races in Asia to make money but also get my name out there with the goal of one day getting picked up by a big team in Europe.
"I've already got a few big UCI wins in Asia racing alongside some of the bigger Pro Continental teams that do big races like the Tour de France. I got the opportunity to do these races thanks to Brett Dutton, who owns and manages the road team I ride for, St George Continental Cycling Team, a small team based in Sydney that really punches above its weight getting great results internationally."
Kennett is preparing for the Tour of Southland, starting on November 1, saying his goal down there is to firstly support Michael Vink who is going for his third straight Tour win and secondly to win a stage or two for their Transport Engineering Southland/Talleys team.
"I've already won a few stages over the last two years so for me it's more important to help Vinky win yellow."
TASC will be well represented in the Tour by the likes of Alex Heaney, last year's runner-up. James Harvey was in Vink's team last year and will again be a teammate of his this year.
Meantime, Kennett is competing in the Dynamo team series run locally by Stephen Cox in order to get that high intensity racing in.
Grant Wilson has assembled a very strong line up for Kennett's Central Roofing/ Revolution Cycling Team to go toe to toe with the likes of Black Spoke and Skoda teams.
"It's nice to be racing with a few of my old track team mates. It's also great seeing the number of young riders there racing and older ones in the other grades too."
Kennett's short-term goal is to do well in Southland then see what he can do at the New Zealand road champs in Cambridge in February 2021.
"It would be great to one day pull on the New Zealand champs jersey on the road," said Kennett.
"Long term, I would honestly love to end up in the pro peloton winning races or helping team mates win races.
"An Olympic medal would be great one day and has always been my main goal but right now it's looking more like winning world tour races being the big goal - at least contributing a lot to a world tour team one day."
Kennett still intends to enter the omnium and madison at the national track champs in Cambridge from November 27-29.
"While road is my current focus, I'm actually looking forward to the NZ omnium and madison champs.
"With my own freedom to do my own training, working on my endurance, specific trainings targeted at toughening my body up, I've found out that I've had a couple of extra gears in my bunch racing on the track."
After this year's New Zealand road nationals, Kennett went over to Bendigo to race against some of Australia's top young track riders and a couple of ex world champions and says he has never felt so strong.
"I've only been known for my fast finish sprinting on the track in bunch racing but over there I found my endurance was much stronger than ever before.
"I was able to win most of the races even against strong team racing coming from the Aussies."
Kennett says he is very confident in his ability to fight for the win for another couple of national titles in November.
"I'm sure the New Zealand team selectors will be just as excited as me when they see my name on the start list."
Watching the Tour de France on TV with his dad as a youngster lured Kennett into taking up cycling.
"In the school holidays dad would let me sit up and watch the tour - I'd nearly always fall asleep before the stage finishes but I loved it and thought I'd like to try it one day.
I also used to watch Timaru hero Marc Ryan race at the local Waimate track racing carnival every year, and I remember watching him win bronze in Beijing with the team pursuit boys and Hayden Roulston getting silver in the individual pursuit.
"I really wanted to try it out and, a month later, mum and dad bought me an old road bike. This was just after the Beijing Olympics in 2008."
Kennett has gone on to become one of this country's most decorated riders.
Highlights include winning the 2015 team pursuit world championships and claiming bronze in the IP at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 was not a happy time for Kennett.
"There was something about that campaign that didn't feel special.
"Lots of things didn't go well but the TP boys and I gave it our all and got fourth which was gutting.
"I didn't do much training for the omnium and I really suffered in the bunch racing. I broke the Olympic record in the flying lap event and almost broke the 1000m time trial record there too winning those rounds but, not only was I under-prepared physically, I was also not ready for the odd decision in the omnium scratch race which cost me about six placings and I truly felt alone to deal with it.
"I have to give Mark Hollands a shout out, he was at the time our NZ team physio and he really helped me keep it together and was the only person who supported me.
"Even our own high-performance director told the media that I was wrong and overnight the decision was changed and it turned out that I was in fact correct. After all that drama I was very hungry to get the job done in Tokyo.
"I decided to fully commit to the team pursuit only. Something I now regret if I'm honest.
After missing out on track worlds selection I had one month to focus on the New Zealand road nationals in February, 2020. I ended up getting third in both the time trial and the road race behind some classy riders. It's the first time I've finished the road nationals and I'm pretty hungry to do better next year."
Kennett is living in Hamilton with his partner Kate McCarthy, the most aggressive rider in this year's national women's elite road race in Cambridge. She road solo for the last 50km, only to be caught 1km from the finish.
First three placings/times in all other grades of TASC road champs:
B grade (4 laps): Matt Davis 1.38.14, 1; Jack Gillingham st (same time) 2; Charlie Studd st, 3.
C grade (4 laps): Cameron Senior 1.45.32, 1; Kate McCarthy 1.45.38, 2; Oliver Duncan 1.46.00, 3.
D grade (3 laps): Liam Purdy 1.30.35, 1; David Smith 1.30.46, 2; Molly Hayes 1.31.27, 3.
E grade (2 laps): Sarah Carswell 1.02.40, 1; Scott Nelson 1.02.43, 2; Peter Thompson 1.02.53, 3.
Under 15 (1 lap): Jacob Chetwin 28.15, 1; Jack Whittall st, 2; Josh Rowe 28.21, 3.