Decision time for Corbin Strong after great Tour of Southland
A standout showing in his debut Tour of Southland has meant Corbin Strong has some big decisions to make over the next few weeks.
The Cycling Southland prodigy finished 10th overall in the SBS Bank-sponsored race’s general classification, the second-highest placed local rider behind Matt Zenovich.
He was the third-ranked under 23 rider, finished fourth on the stages into Te Anau and Invercargill and was sixth fastest up Coronet Peak, the best result of any of the local riders.
But those results don’t tell the full story.
Despite being advised to ease his way into the week, he was involved in attacks from the outset and managed to get himself into most of the important breakaways for the remainder of the week, mixing it up with the likes of Michael Vink, Hamish Bond and Sam Gaze.
“The first stage was the longest stage and the start of the week so I was told to sit in the bunch and if I wanted to do anything save it for the end of the week, if I had anything left,” Strong said.
“Every stage my legs started to feel better. I’ve found that in junior tours, I get better as the tour goes on, but I wasn’t expecting that to happen in this tour, being so much longer and against such harder competition. I was surprised and stoked with how good it went and how my legs were feeling.”
Now Strong is faced with a conundrum. As a member of New Zealand’s world champion junior team pursuit squad, he is on track to be part of Cycling NZ’s Olympic plans for Tokyo and Paris.
But his Southland tour results have also attracted plenty of interest from road teams which would put him on the path towards pinnacle cycling events like the Tour de France.
“I learnt so much throughout the week, mainly about myself as a rider. I’ve always loved stage racing, but this year I haven’t had my best year with stage racing. This was awesome for my confidence, it’s something I want to do more of in the future,” he said.
“Originally I was planning on moving to Cambridge and riding with the elite track squad and focusing on either Tokyo or Paris. After last week it’s been a real eye opener and I’ve had some good offers from road teams come up as well. I’ve got to make some decisions about whether I want to chase the Olympics or try to reach the World Tour. There’s a lot of work to do for me to achieve either of those pathways, but it’s exciting times.”
Strong, who will study commerce and marketing part-time through Massey University next year, credits Academy Southland for much of his development in cycling.
“I’ve noticed so much, and even more this year, how much the Academy has helped me with things like nutrition. Going away to junior worlds and the Tour of Southland - recovery is super important. What you put into your body each day really helps a lot and that’s been drummed into me in the Academy,” he said.
“Also, the mental side of it as well, not putting too much pressure on myself. I don’t go into races putting any pressure on myself to perform, I just want to enjoy riding my bike and I’ve got that attitude from Academy Southland, so I’ve got them to thank for that.”
Strong will attend an elite track camp in Cambridge later this month, in preparation for World Cup meetings in Cambridge and Hong Kong in January.
The future is arriving quickly for someone whose last week at high school also coincided with the Tour of Southland, the school honouring him with a haka as the peloton passed by on the penultimate day of the race.
“It was pretty special riding past Southland Boys’ High School and to have them out there supporting me. It’s been an awesome school for me and I had an awesome time there. It was gutting not being there for the last week of school, but riding past on the last day was great.”