Over the past few seasons, Gerringong's Curtis Trkulja has established himself as one of the state's rising cycling talents.
From finishing second and fourth in the NSW individual pursuit championships and omnium championships respectively (seeing him named in the state team) to finishing third in the general classification at both the Goulburn and Port Macquarie Junior Road Tours, this year has been a breakout one for the 16-year-old.
The Nowra Velo Club member, on the back of these, as well as claiming fourth in the Junior Tour Of Sydney general classification,,was recently named the Illawarra Academy of Sport cyclist of the year.
"Being named the IAS cyclist of the year is a huge honour," Trkulja said.
"This is such a prestigious award and I honestly still can't quite believe I have achieved it.
"I am very grateful to the IAS, as this award provides a platform to recognise the results, work and dedication of their athletes and award winners.
"It ranks pretty high up there in terms of career accomplishments as it is such a coveted and competitive award which has been won by some very successful cyclists."
The Corpus Christi Catholic High School student on top of his strong results on two wheels in 2021, dominated the NVC circuit (placing first in the hill climb, second criterium, third road race and fourth Individual time trial) and Illawarra Track Open (second in the points race, third in scratch and fourth and wheel race) - while also placing second in the COVID-19 Recovery Track Open individual pursuit.
"This past year, I have noticed a substantial performance improvement," said Trkulja, who also took out the NVC's most improved award in 2020," he said.
"The IAS coaching team as well as my personal coach Mick Kejda have worked with me to achieve my goals throughout the year and ensured that my training has resulted in the best possible performance for each race.
"The support from the Nowra Velo Club through club racing and a positive environment has boosted my confidence and provided me with a training platform to try new tactics and measure my performance.
"The IAS has provided me with strength and conditioning programs, education sessions and training sessions to improve my performance both on and off the bike.
"These factors have all improved my physical and mental development and are the primary reasons this past year has been so successful."
Both the IAS, who he's been with for five years and the Nowra Velo Club have been huge influences on his career.
"Throughout these past five years, the IAS has played a major role in my development as an athlete, both on and off the bike," he said.
"The track training sessions and coaching have improved my fitness, skills and race tactics, while the education modules have provided me with valuable information that has greatly improved my performance.
"While the Nowra Velo Club's warm and welcoming members are always positive and supportive, ensuring that everyone is included.
"They have also been incredibly supportive of my racing and achievements outside of club events, and ensured that I have a platform and avenues to continue building my career and achieving my goals."
Achieving those goals clicks up a gear for Trkulja, who won NVC's mountain championship in record time on Sunday, next month at the state road titles on November 6 and 7.
This will be followed by stints at the Bowral Criterium and Southern Cross Shimano Super Criterium (December 11-12) and under 19s National Road Championships in Ballarat (January 12-16) - which he hopes can springboard him into an incredible 2022 season in the seat.
"I try to have at least three short term goals and one long term goal at any given time," said Trkulja, whose weekly training regimen includes more than 16 hours on the bike as well as extra time on his strength and conditioning.
"But COVID-19 has made it really difficult to focus on goals, as events are constantly being moved and/or cancelled.
"My current short term goals are to leave everything I have on the road with no regrets, secure state road team selection and hopefully win a state medal - which would be unreal.
"Then long-term, I'd love to finish in the top 10 of both the time trial and road race at the under 19s nationals."
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