A stop-over in Australia may be the key to success for Kiwi cyclists, writes Sarah van Boheemen.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

New Zealanders have won a third of the 12 Subaru National Road Series (NRS) events this year, with one race remaining.

This statistic is even more impressive when you consider that, on average, there have been only four Kiwis competing in any single NRS event.

New Zealand time trial champion Joseph Cooper, racing for the Huon Salmon-Genesys Wealth Advisers team, won the Tour de Perth and has clocked up four additional stage wins.

Sam Horgan won the Tour of the Great South Coast in August before leading his Budget Forklifts team to a clean sweep of the Melbourne to Warrnambool podium. And pocket rocket Alex Ray (Target Trek) capped a great weekend for the Kiwis by winning the Shipwreck Coast Classic.

So where has the Kiwi success come from?

The growth of the Australian cycling scene coupled with the demise of New Zealand's events and teams has forced Kiwis across the ditch in search of racing. And what have they found? A series deep with talent, varied events, strong teams and opportunities to shine.

For 26-year-old Horgan, the challenge of racing in Australia with Budget Forklifts was the logical next step in his career.

Like many young riders, Horgan has suffered through a season in the French amateur ranks before, but the Kiwi believes that the quality of racing in Australia is so high that heading directly to Europe is no longer the only option.

"The level of racing is certainly as high, if not higher, than when I raced amateurs in France," said Horgan of his first year racing the NRS.

"I have been telling all my mates in Christchurch and anyone who will listen to come race in Australia. It's cheaper, you don't have to commit to doing a full season and it's close to home. And the lifestyle is so much easier."

"I have had a really enjoyable year - it is probably the most fun I have had riding my bike ever," said Horgan.

While Australia may not hold the glamour of Europe, it is proven to be a launch pad for many pro careers.

"I know next year it's going to be very hard to get a ride in Europe. I think this is the perfect opportunity. Hopefully more teams will be looking for Kiwis," said Horgan.

Australia offers something for everyone - from young-gun Alex Ray to 41-year-old Gordon McCauley closing out his career with Drapac. Cooper is a full time cyclist while Horgan balances his time on the bike with a career as mechanical engineer in Christchurch.

With no structured racing calendar in New Zealand Kiwis have been forced overseas but with Europe overflowing with an abundance of cyclists it would be wise to consider alternative options.

The answer may just be a little closer to home.