Two years ago, the only time Ian Talbot jumped on a bike was when he rode to university or on the occasional weekend joy ride with friends.
But now the once casual cyclist is one of the most promising young riders in the country.
Last week, the 20-year-old won the under-23 time trial title at the New Zealand road cycling championships in Napier.
The Team Skoda Racing rider first realised he could give the sport a crack after tracking his time using an app on his phone while riding up Dyers Pass Rd.
“I use an app called Strava which allows you to check your times against other riders. All of a sudden I realised I was in the top 10 per cent of people going up the hill, so I thought what could happen if I put my mind to it and train,” said Talbot.
A switch was flicked and Talbot started training 15-16 hours a week and received coaching.
In 2017, he rode a total of 19,452km over 627 hours. He also climbed a total of 157,894m – the equivalent of going up Mt Everest 17 times. A big leap from riding 100km on average a week before 2017. This year, he’ll step up to the next level. Talbot has put his studies at Canterbury University on hold to pursue cycling full-time.
He will spend nine months in Europe riding for French team UC Nantes Atlantique and will race at a top amateur level. He also plans to compete in a number of internationally sanctioned Union Cycliste Internationale races.
“I want to keep going and keep pushing myself until I find the limit. Ideally, I want to go as far as I can,” said Talbot.
Since moving to Christchurch to study mechanical engineering three years ago he has worked part-time at cycling store Chain Reaction. He says his staff discount has proved helpful on his journey into what can be an expensive sport to compete in.
Before moving to Christchurch from Nelson, Talbot hadn’t even owned a road bike.
“The mountain bike was a bit slow around town. I got sick of taking an extra 15min to get anywhere and eventually found the money for a good bike,” he said.
His first competitive race was in February at the first round of the Calder Stewart Cycling Series in Cheviot. He finished a respectable 22nd overall and fourth in the under-23 division. It didn’t take him long to improve, finishing seventh at the second round in Otago before claiming a podium at the Hokitika Classic in September.
Talbot described his first experiences riding in a peloton as a huge challenge and is admittedly still finding his feet in terms of the strategical side of road racing. “It’s like playing chess at 40km/h,” he said.
Riding in a bunch wasn’t an issue when he claimed the national under-23 time trial title on Friday. His winning time of 53min 52.80sec over the 40km course saw him finish just under 18sec ahead of fellow Canterbury rider Jake Marryatt in second.
Talbot’s time would also have been good enough for seventh place in the elite men’s grade which was won by double Olympic gold medallist rower-turned-cyclist Hamish Bond.
“It was a goal I set 12 months ago, but to turn up and do it on the day was amazing,” said Talbot.
Other than his first national title in Napier, Talbot’s other highlight of his brief competitive career came in Tasmania in November. He finished fifth overall in the five-day Spirit of Tasmania Cycling Tour. Past winners of the tour include Cadel Evans and Richie Porte.
Talbot left for France yesterday. Ironically, he partly funded his trip to Europe by selling his car. If he progresses as far over the next year as he did in 2017, cycling may prove a faster mode of transport for him.