CYCLIST Zak Dempster's inclusion in the 2014 Tour de France field will inspire the next generation of central Victorian riders, according to Olympic champion and Bendigo resident Scott McGrory.
The German-based NetApp-Endura team announced their line-up for the classic road tour on Thursday and 26-year-old Dempster was among the nine chosen.
McGrory, who won gold in the madison at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, said it was a well-deserved reward for a talented young athlete.
"Zak is someone I have taken an interest in for 14-odd years and it is really exciting to see someone so focused and dedicated to his sport be given this opportunity on the world's biggest stage," he said.
"Just getting to the start line of the Tour de France is very special in world sport, so it is fantastic for a local rider to do that."
McGrory revealed he had a special connection to Dempster, who was raised in Castlemaine.
"I gave the shoes I wore when I won my Sydney Olympic medal to a friend in Castlemaine (former Bendigo madison winner David Maltby) who mentored Zak through his early career, and he passed them on to Zak."
McGrory said he was certain Dempster's selection in a Tour team would be an inspiration for the next group of emerging cyclists from Bendigo and surrounds.
"Historically, young Australian riders have looked at the Europeans as being something special or different to themselves.
"But when it's someone local we've seen riding or even been training with making their way in Europe, it lets everybody know we all have two arms and two legs and if you work hard enough, then you can achieve."
Dempster's strength and conditioning neural coach Jarrod Butler, from Feelgood Fitness, spoke to the rising star on the phone after hearing the news.
"He was very composed and not caught up in the moment," Butler said.
"He said it was great, but he's taking the approach of 'business as usual' because he doesn't want to get caught up in the hype of it all.
"But it is so exciting for him that he is eventually realising his dream."
Dempster is a former winner of the Bendigo International Madison, racing to victory with Mitchell Docker in 2006.
He has taken out stages of the Tour of Japan and Czech Tour, and has ridden this year in the Tour of Slovenia, Tour of California and many more.
The Tour de France starts on July 5.
It is exciting to see someone so focused and dedicated to his sport be given this opportunity on the world's biggest stage.