Flash young cyclists from up north showing real grit

When asked how he would describe his Far North Flash cycling team, coach Phil Gibbs had one word — magic.

The Kaitaia Primary School team of 10 joined hundreds of riders from across the country over the weekend for the Yunca Junior Tour of Southland.

Mr Gibbs, who was previously a teacher at the school but moved to Hamilton, said his girls trained five days a week for hours at a time after school, all on their own.

Armed with a weekly schedule, the girls would walk from school to the gym every weekday and train on their own accord.

"They bounce off each other, they’re good mates, they laugh together, go hard together and just support each other. They’re an awesome bunch of kids."

With many coming from a lower socio-economic background, cycling had become really important to them.

Far North Flash team members from Kaitaia Primary School were in Bluff at the weekend for the...
Far North Flash team members from Kaitaia Primary School were in Bluff at the weekend for the Yunca Junior Tour of Southland. PHOTO: ABBEY PALMER
"It’s their thing. You just can’t get rid of them now," he laughed.

"They’ve become little superstars all over New Zealand because of who they are, where they’re from, and they back it up with how they ride their bikes."

For a group of 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds, they were pretty determined, Gibbs said of his charges.

Kylee Tipene (10), who just started racing this year, said she loved being part of a team.

"I like helping my friends out when they’re racing and pushing them."

Alexis Manuel (11) said she liked to see her friends "ride hard, cheering them on when they’re struggling".

The Yunca Junior Tour of Southland had been an incubator for some of New Zealand’s top cycling talent throughout the years, and the 2020 edition offered challenges aplenty for budding young cycling talent.

Riders took on six stages from October 2-4, for a chance to win the coveted yellow jersey in their age group.

Rather than being based at Teretonga Park as it had been in the past, the opening day of the tour was based in Wyndham, and then travelled down to Bluff for the final two days.

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