Three years ago Laurence Pithie was the NZSS Year 9 Boys cross country running champion.
In 2019 the year 12 Christchurch Boys’ High School student is fast making a name for himself as a track and road cyclist.
In the past several weeks he has struck major success in both formats, first becoming a double world champion in the Omnium and Madison at the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships and second and most recently winning all three U20 Boys titles on offer at the Cycling New Zealand Schools Road Championships.
The 52nd annual Cycling New Zealand Schools Road Championships were held in and around Feilding this past weekend over three days. The team time trials were held on Saturday and the two individual races, the road race and points race, were on Sunday and Monday.
Laurence’s CBHS team successfully defended the Sir Bernard Fergusson Trophy, for the U20 Boys’ team trial.
With the help of his teammates, and with his own individual strength, speed and guile, he won the individual road race and points race titles on the second and third days.
“It was pretty awesome to come away with the trifecta,” he said, “not many people have done it before so I was pretty stoked to do that!”
“We won the team time trial last year at home in Christchurch. We had a similar team make-up this year, although we were missing one of our strong riders, Logan Currie, who was away at the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire.”
CBHS’s 16km loop team time trial win was by the slimmest of margins – beating Cambridge High School by 0.31s. “It came down to the wire, a blink of an eye.”
The individual road race the next day over 54kms was in very windy conditions, making it tough for all. “This was good for me because it played into my strengths a little bit because of my restricted gears.”
Again, this was closely fought, with Laurence edging U19 national representative Xander White (Cambridge High School) and track world champion teammate Kiaan Watts (Hamilton Boys’ High School) in a sprint finish.
There was a breakaway and it came down to the sprint finish.
“It was a pretty stacked breakaway. I had a teammate, Griffin Spencer, in there, and also two guys from Cambridge High and a Hamilton Boys’ rider Kiaan Watts who I won the Madison world title with [see below].
“I just timed it perfectly and came around on the righthand side and was getting blocked from the wind from the other riders. Usually Kiaan is pretty smart with his finishing but I managed to get one up on him on this occasion and I came off his wheel.”
On Monday the weather was worse for the points races, with lashings of heavy rain thrown into the mix. “So that made it a pretty miserable but exciting race. There were no crashes though, everyone managed to keep it upright going around the Manfeild race track.”
The Boys U20 Points Race was reduced from 12 to seven laps.
With more solid team work from his CBHS teammates, Laurence again dominated the sprints with 12 points ahead of Kiaan Watts and Jensen Foster (Saint Kentigern College).
Monday’s racing saw points awarded on alternate laps two, for six and seven, with 5 points awarded for a win, 3 for second and 2 and 1 for third and fourth.
Laurence’s hot form outdoors followed on from his recent breakthrough wins on the world stage.
In August at the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships in Germany, he won the Omnium title and then partnered with Kiaan Watts to win the Madison title.
“I couldn’t really believe it when I did it, but it has sunk in now and great to look back on.”
The Omnium consisted of four races in one day as well a qualifying race, so five all up and about 100km on the track.
He was fourth in the in the opening 7.5km scratch race and then won the tempo race, elimination race and points race to finish 21 points ahead of second placed Australian Graeme Frislie.
The Madison is a 100-lap, two-up points race and was the next day. Laurence and Kiaan finished with 49 points, ahead of Germany with 35 and France with 17.
Prior to the World Championships, the riders had some camps in New Zealand before spending two weeks training in Germany.
In the two-rider Madison, he and Watts turned in a dominant performance. They finished with 49 points ahead of Germany on 35 and France on 27 for the 30km ride, where no team was able to put a lap on the field. The Kiwi pair won the final three sprints to clinch victory.
Back home this week, Laurence is in training for the Oceania Track Cycling Championships coming up in Invercargill, starting in a fortnight. He will be representing Canterbury and not New Zealand in his U19 age-group due to the New Zealand team including mainly young development riders.
Unable to train on a track in Christchurch, Laurence is doing his training on the trainer and on the road. “It is okay in the summer, but it can be a bit tough out there in the Christchurch weather in the winter.”
“My coach Andrew Williams has structured by training on the road so it simulates the track work I would be doing inside.
“I will show up to the track in Invercargill the day before racing and then I will crack straight into it.”
Andrew Williams has been his coach for three years. He is a former nationally ranked junior runner, he started cycling to alleviate a knee injury and hasn’t looked back.
Next year he is hoping to head for Europe for some more road racing experience, while he is eligible to defend his titles at the 2020 Junior World Track Championships in Egypt
College Sport New Zealand (CSNZ) thanks the One Foundation for their support with this and other stories in 2019 on College Sport Media.
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