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The Grammar Hammer – a tough act to follow

 

Secondary Schools cycle racing in New Zealand has enjoyed a relatively short history but in that time one school has consistently been near the top of the heap in the boys races. Auckland Grammar School cycling team, it cannot be argued, has won more than any other school.

Both Senior and Junior boys teams are the current NZ Secondary Schools Team Time Trial champions. This event is considered the most highly sought after event of the Schools calendar. As if this is not impressive enough, AGS Senior Boys claimed the Sir Bernard Fergusson Team Time Trial Trophy, awarded to the National Champion for the 20th time in 2010!

In the big scheme of things cycling, you may be thinking that all this emphasis on winning at a young age may not be a good thing. Are we burning them out too young? Does success at school lead to success after school? Well in the case of AGS the recent crop of talent that has ridden through the ranks is currently enjoying a reasonable level of success on the International stage, so I think that this in itself indicates that they’re doing something right. Recent AGS cyclists include:

 

Roman van Uden – Class of 2006, 2010 winner of Taupo Cycle Challenge, member of Pure Black Racing, Winner of 2009 Tour of Gila Criterium (ahead of Lance Armstrong), Sprint Jersey winner of 2010 Tour of Southland, Winner of 2011 Downtown Criterium at Redlands Bicycle Classic.

Aaron Gate – Class of 2007, World Track champs representative, 2010 Commonwealth Games 5th Points Race, 2nd Team Pursuit Manchester World Cup 2010.

Louis Crosby – Class of 2007, Member of Pure Black Racing, 3rd NZ U23 Club Road Race champs 2010, Winner of U23 jersey at Joe Martin Stage Race, 2nd in two stages of Mt Hood Cycling Classic.

Alex Ray – Class of 2007, Winner of a stage of 2010 Tour of Gippsland, Winner of 2009 Criterium at Armstrong Motor Group Festival, 2009 Auckland U23 Road Race Champion.

Hamish Elley-Brown – Class of 2010, Currently riding in France for Amateur team VCC Morteau Montbenoit, Current leader of the Credit Mutuel series for Cat 2 riders.

2011 AGS Cycling race schedule

Auckland Secondary Schools Team Time Trial Series (7 races)

North Island Secondary Schools Champs – 2nd–3rd July

National Individual Secondary School Champs – Mt Wellington – Aug 26th-28th.

National Secondary Schools Champs – Palmerston North – Oct 7th-9th.

Class of 2011

54 Cyclists across all grades

2011 sees a bit of rebuilding going on with the Senior Boys A team with many of the strong riders from 2010 leaving school. Senior A is currently holding on to 2nd in the Auckland Waterfront TTT series.

Even though the Juniors were super strong in 2010, so far in 2011 it must be said that the new crop are even better. With four races gone in the Auckland TTT series AGS Junior A have gone undefeated, most weeks by a substantial margin. In race 3 they almost posted a time to match the Seniors. Backing up this extraordinary talent this year are another 7 Teams and in recent TTT’s they have placed A, B & C teams all inside the top 8, so there is some real depth to get excited about.

Of course this all bodes well for the future of cycling at AGS and the legacy looks set to continue.

Profiles:

Daniel Gate: Senior Captain: a member of the Senior A team that won the National TTT in 2010 and 2nd in North Island Secondary Schools road race in 2010. Coming from the same talented gene pool as his older brother Aaron, Daniels key attributes are dogged determination and a strong finishing kick. Danny has really taken on his role of Captain for 2011 by rallying the troupes to complete extra training outside of the compulsory sessions and is not about to be satisfied with 2nd place.

Jonty Morreau: Captain of Junior A: 2011 Captain of winning Junior TTT at North Island Secondary Schools Champs, NISS cycling road race U16 3rd. 2010 NZ Individual Schools Champs, Mt Wellington U15 1st in TT, Hill climb (nz record), Crit and Overall GC

Jonty aims to achieve as highly as possible-especially national TTT title. Enjoys the camaraderie of junior cycling, racing as well as possible for the team and getting to know and encourage the juniors especially the new cyclists.

Following in the wheel tracks of his older brothers, Matthew and Sam whose names are all over the record books, Jonty is just the 3rd in a row of over achieving cycling brothers named Morreau. There is a 4th on the way with Alex also joining to ranks of AGS cycling in 2011.

 

Why so successful?

Training routine

During term 2 and 3 teams meet regularly on Tue and Thu afternoons for some structured training with team coaches Aaron Strong (Senior) and Russell Scott (Junior).

It’s getting increasingly difficult in Auckland to run an effective / safe training session for a group of teenagers on the road, so it is for this reason that most training is run out in the Airport Oaks / Mangere Bridge region to make use of some quieter roads. Those familiar with the roads out here will know that the chip seal is rough and slow and the area exposed to wind frequently. This is all good for the training of strong and thinking cyclists. When AGS came up against gale force winds at last years nationals on dead roads I believe the many days out by the Airport really came into their own.

Early season is spent building team work and getting the more senior riders to pass on their knowledge to the younger less experienced. The first few rides in 2011 were interesting with ability level wide and varied. Amongst the “Cyclists” enrolled in 2011 were a range of returning cyclists, runners, multisporters, & rowers. The first challenge was to get some to stop riding with their arms.

Once discipline and routine have been instilled in the early weeks, training takes the form of skill work and emphasises fun at all times. There is some time spent on high intensity efforts but for the most part the Seniors training has been focused on being strong as a team. In teams time trials the most important thing to remember is that you are only as strong as your weakest link.

Outside of the two scheduled training sessions per week, team members are encouraged to continue their own training on top of that. This ranges a lot and is not compulsory. It is strongly recommended that A and B riders train at least 5 days per week but in the case of some of the talented runners in the group, their other sessions may be more running based.

Beliefs

There is an overwhelmingly strong team culture at AGS Cycling born out of some traditions, a proud history and a fantastic support system.

2011 started with an introductory ride to initiate the new comers and start the team building process. Bunches were divided into ability and rode a testing route around West Auckland culminating in a team lunch.

Early season they always run a team Cycling Camp, this year in Cambridge. 2 days of epic riding (for the young ones) and camp activities on Saturday night saw everyone come away with a high level of motivation and all got to know their team mates strengths and weaknesses a little better.

It’s these type of events that make the difference with AGS Cycling. You couldn’t even begin to organise these activities without a strong support system and at Grammar this is provided by the parents and Teacher in charge of cycling who are encouraged to offer help at these events and throughout the racing season. In the last two seasons Geraldine Marson has been the T.I.C. steering the ship and her enthusiasm really rubs off.

One thing you notice when dealing with the AGS boys is the competitive spirit which has been instilled in them by the overall culture at Auckland Grammar School. In 2010, AGS Senior A went to Nationals as a strong contender for the title but definitely not favourites. They overcame an average season with outstanding team cohesion and took out the win at Nationals. Their captain never lost belief in the fact that they could win another National title.

2011 has started in a similar fashion for the Senior Boys. They’ve had a tough start but are using that as motivation to hit the heights again by the end of the season. They have never once talked about settling for 2nd when the leading team is clearly a class act. Such is the power of the history to live up to the reputation at AGS Cycling.