By Liam Bland
Talented Sippy Downs cyclist Amarni Drake is ready to return to action in the ACA-Ride Sunshine Coast’s next round of international races following a six-week stint on the sidelines.
The 18-year-old said a knee injury setback has only fuelled his ambitions for a series of high-profile one-day races in Japan and China over the next month.
“My main focus is to get to Japan in good nick,” he said.
“But when I’m there, I’m just going to go for it, and help the rest of the team out.”
Drake is preparing to ride with the squad in three weekends of events in Japan over the next month, starting in Oita on Saturday.
This will be followed by the Japan Cup, one of the biggest one-day races in Asia, which attracts riders from the World Tour.
He will start the events with extra motivation after battling a patellofemoral injury, which he said was caused by a build-up of tension and fatigue in his kneecap.
“When you don’t get to ride, you sort of realise how lucky you are to ride,” he said.
“That’s made me a lot hungrier.
“I want to do well.”
It will be Drake’s second time cycling in Japan, having completed a highly successful stage race, which was won by ACA’s Michael Potter, in March.
Drake said the tour was “a great life experience, not just in terms of riding”, and he was excited to be competing abroad once again.
“I’d never been to Japan before, so the cultural experience I had there was amazing,” he said.
“Meeting new people, trying new foods, and being immersed in a different lifestyle.
He said it was an important bonding experience for the team, which is completing a successful debut season in the Continental ranks.
“We were winning our races too which was great, so it was really good fun on and off the track,” he said.
ACA director Ben Kersten said he was expecting another successful campaign from the squad on their return to Japan.
“We would really love to win, and we can definitely get on the podium,” he said.
“I won’t be much happier with anything less.”
Kersten said Drake has what it takes to go all the way in his pursuit of a professional cycling career, and the gifted youngster would only get better with time.
“He just needs more development, and we’re the right people to give him that,” he said.
“He’s got it in him, it’s just going to take some time.”
Drake said that the support he has received from the ACA over his injury period has played a key role in his rehabilitation.
“When you’re supposed to be out there riding but you can’t, they could very easily say ‘you’re done’,” he said.
“Instead, they’ve supported me and had my back, which I appreciate a lot.”
The ACA is based at the University of the Sunshine Coast, where Drake is currently completing a degree in sports studies and is part of the high-performance sport program.
He is also working on learning more about his bike, doing shifts as a mechanic at CycleZone Mooloolaba.
In its debut year, the ACA has already established itself as a powerhouse in the Australian cycling scene, winning races at home and abroad.
ACA’s upcoming events
October 13 Ikoinomichi Criterium
October 14 Oita Urban Classic road race
October 20 Criterium
October 21 Road race
Tour of Okinawa, Japan
Tour of Fuzhou, China