Climb­ing to new heights

Multisport Mecca - - News - Grant Ed­wards Grant.Ed­wards@apn.com.au

WHEN the Sun­shine Coast’s Alastair MacKel­lar stood atop the Aus­tralian Ju­nior Hill Climb Cham­pi­onships dais and Mat Hayman did the same at this year’s Paris-Roubaix they were worlds apart. But they had one thing in com­mon – Merv McDon­ald.

The 82-year-old has played a piv­otal role in coach­ing the re­gion’s ju­nior cy­clists.

Merv may not have been the wind be­neath their wings, but has cer­tainly put air in the tyres of count­less young­sters for decades.

Awarded an OAM for cy­cling two decades ago, his most re­cent suc­cess sto­ries have been the likes of Shara Hil­low, Dan Fit­ter and Ryan Ca­vanagh.

He cur­rently has a squad of 10 in his de­vel­op­ment pro­gram, and charges no money for his time. While th­ese days he needs the aid of a walk­ing frame to get around fol­low­ing a stroke, he con­tin­ues to help de­velop the next wave of Aus­tralian and Queens­land cham­pi­ons.

Among those show­ing great prom­ise is Alastair. Last week­end he won the un­der-15 Ju­nior Can­berra Tour af­ter fin­ish­ing with a 2:32:57 lead on the gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion over four stages.

Alastair got an early lead cour­tesy of the time trial and the first road race, and was never headed.

Be­fore that there was vic­tory at the An­zac 25 staged at Lake­side race­way, as well as win­ning the Cy­cling Aus­tralia Ju­nior Moun­tain Climb Cham­pi­onship in Vic­to­ria where he took the ti­tle for the in­di­vid­ual time trial, road race and gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion.

“Merv said it would take 12 months to get him up to speed,” Alastair’s fa­ther Dun­can said.

“He has gone from be­ing dropped in races to a na­tional cham­pion. To get to that level in 12 months…it’s amaz­ing.

“It’s got to the point where I can’t keep up with him.”

Get­ting up be­tween 4.30-5am each day, Alastair rides about 250-300km a week. That would in­clude an easy ses­sion on the Mon­day, hill re­peats up Crosby Hill Road on Tues­days, sta­tion­ary trainer ses­sions with Merv on Wed­nes­days, the fast Grind on Thurs­days, an easy ride on Fri­days be­fore rac­ing or group rides on Satur­days and Sun­days.

While rac­ing go-karts ad hoc and surf­ing, the Matthew Flin­ders stu­dent said it was rid­ing with his dad which in­spired the cy­cling in­ter­est.

“I only started the last cou­ple of months do­ing al­right,” the modest 14-year-old said.

“The first win was the na­tional hill climb. That was a big sur­prise. There was also some good results at lo­cal races with the Bris­bane and Gold Coast rid­ers and then Can­berra.

“I’ve just been do­ing lots of train­ing and lis­ten­ing to what the coach says to do. It’s not eas­ier (rac­ing) but be­cause the train­ing is in my legs I have more strength and am able to do it.”

His ses­sions with Merv on the sta­tion­ary trainer in­volve power mea­sure­ments with in­ter­vals and sprints.

“Merv is very much about mon­i­tor­ing the kids’ heart rate. If they are go­ing through a growth phase he backs off the train­ing,” Dun­can said.

When it comes to the fu­ture, Alastair isn’t set­ting any lofty goals just yet. Next on the agenda is the state titles next month, and if suc­cess­ful there it will be off to na­tion­als in Bendigo dur­ing Septem­ber.

“I just want to keep train­ing, rac­ing and see where it takes me from there,” he said.

PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED

Alastair MacKel­lar dur­ing his Aus­tralian Ju­nior Hill Climb Cham­pi­onships suc­cess.

PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED

Ded­i­cated cy­cling coach Merv McDon­ald.

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