IT'S been 18 years since Castlemaine-raised and then Bendigo-based cyclist Zak Dempster charged to glory in the Austral Wheelrace.
This Sunday it will be Blake Agnoletto among Bendigo's group in pursuit of winning the oldest track cycling race in the world.
Agnoletto, 19, won the 2020 Golden Mile and last year's Lindsay Harrington Memorial Wheelrace, both raced at Bendigo's Tom Flood Sports Centre.
The teenager takes great form on to the boards at Darebin's velodrome in Thornbury.
A huge campaign on Sunday includes the Austral Wheelrace (2000m) and teaming with Henry Dietze in the Australian Madison Championship.
The Austral was first raced at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1897. Race distance was 4800m (three miles) and a grand piano was the prize.
"It's such an iconic race and one I am really keen to do well in," Agnoletto said.
"It's more than the prizemoney, it's a chance to join so many great cyclists as an Austral winner."
The Austral honour board includes Bendigo cyclists Merv Andrea, 1968; Phil Sawyer, '83; Terry Schintler, '84; Ash Harding, '94; Tony Hughes, '95; and Zak Dempster, 2004.
It's been a topsy-turvy run for Agnoletto in the 2021-22 track and road season.
A bout of Covid put him out of the field for the Bay Criterium series in early January, but he struck back to compete at the national road titles in Ballarat and Santos Festival of Cycling in South Australia.
Just last week he was hit by a car while training.
"I was okay, but took a few days rest of the bike and did not race last weekend."
A second-year scholarship holder with the Victorian Institute of Sport, Agnoletto puts in plenty of time training on the track, road, and in the gym.
"A major focus this year was building up strength for a race start.
"I am pushing such a big gear off the mark so getting up and going as quickly as I can is really important, especially in a handicap."
He trains each Wednesday on the Darebin track, racks up plenty of hours on the roads, and usually does a track session behind the motorbike on Sunday at Tom Flood SC.
The work he did at a national track camp in Adelaide after the road nationals was crucial in working toward goals such as the Austral, Australian madison, national track titles, and Oceania champs.
"The Santos Festival was a great experience. It was racing in searing heat and up against some of the world's best," he said of a three-day duel in which each stage was more than 100 kilometres.
A mechanic at Giant Bendigo in Bendigo, Agnoletto can often ask Terry Schintler about some racing or training tips.
As an eight-year-old Agnoletto went to a come 'n try mountain biking day.
"It was a lot of fun."
His dad, Sandy had played a lot of soccer but was doing some road cycling in bunches and then in veterans criteriums.
"I used to go along and watch and for my 10th birthday I was given a Giant bike by mum and dad (Robyn and Sandy)."
Just over nine years later and Blake Agnoletto is on the InForm TMX Make team and has shown a lot of class, whether it be pursuit races, points score, scratch, omnium, madison, and more.
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