Ben Cross's challenge in Tour of the Great South Coast

Ben Cross will start in the Tour of the Great South Coast.

Ben Cross will start in the Tour of the Great South Coast.

TAREE cyclist Ben Cross is determined to be still in the field when the gruelling Tour of the Great South Coast winds to its conclusion in Portland, Victoria on Sunday July 29.

The 500km six stage tour, which is part of the National Road Series, will start on  Wednesday July 26 in Mount Gambier, South Australia and will be contested by 20 teams. At 16, Cross will be among the youngest in the field. It’s by far the biggest challenge he’s faced since starting competitive cycling just on three years ago.

He’s a member of the gpm Stultz team, where he is classed as a development rider.

“I’m really nervous,’’ Cross admitted.

“I’ll be racing against the big guys – some of the best in Australia. But I’m super-keen and I’ve been doing heaps of training.”

This equates to spending 15 hours on his bike each week in preparation for an event that will include one road race of 137km and another of 121km. It’ll start with a 36km criterium.

Cross has no delusions about how he’ll fare.

“I’m there to help the stronger guys (in the team),’’ he said.

“So I’m not there to win or anything like that, I just want to be there at the finish.’’

Cross doesn’t know that much about the route.

“But I’ve heard there are some brutal hills,’’ he added.

Cross was a member of the gold medal winning Hunter side in the under 19 time trial at the State championships at Nowra last weekend.

“That was my first State medal, so that was good,’’ he said.

However, time trials aren’t his preferred races and he concedes he’ll have to work on this aspect if he hopes to achieve his ambition of riding professionally.

Cross is coached by Kurt Pollock from Port Macquarie and he speaks with him each week. It’s a case of have bike will travel for Cross, with the sport taking him to Canberra, Victoria, Tasmania and now South Australian for races. His trip to Tasmania provided some unexpected drama when Cross dropped off the pack and took a wrong turn during a road race. He was starting to get a bit concerned when he was finally found by race organisers.

“I didn’t have a phone or any money, but I was starting to think about pulling up at a house and ringing dad,’’ he smiled.

His dad, Michael, is president of Manning Cycle Club. However, Cross came into bike racing through mountain bikes.

“I was training a lot on the road with the mountain bike and I decided to concentrate on it – I gave up all the other sports,’’ he said.

There’s a possibility he’ll ride in New Zealand this year but that’s still to be finalised.

“Otherwise there’s club racing – that keeps me busy,’’ he said.