When College Sport Media caught up with cyclist Ellesse Andrews at the start of last year she was living in Wanaka and attending Mount Aspiring College and regularly commuting three hours each way to train and compete at the Invercargill velodrome.
At the start of this year Ellesse and her family moved north to Cambridge, where her father and former Commonwealth Games track cycling bronze medallist Jon Andrews started a new job as a high performance coach with Cycling New Zealand.
The move to the Waikato sporting hotbed has made Ellesse’s training a lot easier, which she credits much towards the terrific year she’s had in 2016.
“I go to St Peter’s School and the velodrome is literally across the road, so I can walk over after school to training and to whatever else I have on there,” Year 12 student Ellesse explained. “It’s also a three minute drive from my house, so it’s really handy.”
“Just getting in that extra time on the track has made it really a difference to my racing and it’s really helped with my achievements this year. It’s also really good road riding up here, so just having more circuits and more roads to ride on has really helped me improve my endurance.”
This year Ellesse has been crowned a world junior track champion and at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Road Racing Championships she won a bunch of individual and team titles with the St Peter’s U20 Girls team.
In July she travelled to Switzerland with the New Zealand team at the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships and came away with a bronze medal in the 2000m individual pursuit and a gold medal in the women's team sprint with teammate Emma Cumming. She also set personal bests in the 2000m individual pursuit and also in the 500m time trial [finishing fifth].”
Ellesse and Emma were second fastest in qualifying in 28.304s for the two laps of the smaller 200m track, to be only 2/100ths of a second behind the Italians.
They were outstanding in the final with a 16.428s opening lap from the standing start led by Emma which gained a slight lead, with Ellesse storming home in 11.578s for the win by nearly 0.4 seconds.
“It was a 200m track, compared to the normal 250m, so it was hard to tell if our ride there was a personal best. But we would’ve – if it had been that would’ve been a personal best too.”
Ellesse finished third behind Russian winner Maria Novolodskaya and Australian runner-up Jade Haines in the 2000m individual pursuit, beating Polish rider Nikola Rózynska in the bronze medal in a time of 2.22.695 minutes. New Zealand teammate Nicole Shields from Dunstan High School finished fifth.
“The junior worlds were such a great experience, just the whole buzz of racing everyone from around the world and travelling with the team to a big competition like that made it really fun – which hopefully I’ll be doing more of in the future.
“Emma Cumming is from Invercargill [formerly Southland GHS] and she and I have been racing for a couple of years now. Looking back at my first nationals, I rode team sprint with her as well and it’s just cool looking at how far we’ve come from the early days in the U17 age-group and now what we’ve achieved together.”
Returning to New Zealand, Ellesse joined her St Peter’s School teammates at the New Zealand Secondary School Road Cycling Championships in Levin and struck both individual and team success.
She won the U20 Girls Road Race, ahead of Nicole Shields in second and Emma Smith from Villa Maria College in third. She won the U20 Girls Points Race ahead of Georgia Danford from St Cuthbert’s College in second and Nicole Shields in third.
The St Peter’s U20 girls team won the team time trial, with Palmerston North Girls’ High School second and Waikato Diocesan School For Girls third, and they finished third in the team points race behind Waikato Dio and Epsom Girls’ Grammar School.
The other cyclists in the St Peter’s U20 team were Holly Blakely (captain), Rose Dillon, Ally Wollaston, Jess Clarke and Sammi Ogle.
“That was my first school’s nationals and I loved it,” said Ellesse, “I wasn’t sure what the racing or the course would be like, but I really enjoyed it and our team did really well.”
What’s coming up next?
“My next big race is the Oceania Games in Melbourne in December. After that there are nationals again in February, where I’ll be aiming to qualify the junior world’s team next year too.” The 2017 junior world’s event is in China.
Short term, she finishes school for the year in a few days, so is looking forward to the summer away from the classroom and in the saddle.
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