This weekend Ione Johnson won the 100km Elite women’s race at Taupo – arguably one of the most prestigious road races on the calendar. She played her cards right, rode across to a strong breakaway, and then unleashed her famous track sprint to win the biggest race of her career thus far. When she called to tell me she’d won she was sobbing, laughing, and in total elation. I’ve never been so stoked for her.
The first ride I did with Ione was in the depths of winter while one of those miserable Southerly storms was ravishing Wellington. She was 13 and her Dad asked if she’d be able to join our Sunday Wheelworks groupride but the weather was so atrocious that only her, Mike Naylor, and myself were at the meeting spot. As Mike and I cruised and chatted up the first climb Ione was fully red-lined, panting and shifting gears looking for one which would ease her pain to no avail. On the ride home into a ferocious headwind she sheltered behind Mike and I like a PRO, her experience from track cycling clearly evident, until she punctured. We all stopped to lend assistance but Ione politely declined help from Mike or I as her Dad had taught her how to fix a puncture. After battling her way up the climbs she battled her way through fixing a flat tyre in freezing rain and it was clear to Mike and I that with such an awesome attitude she’d be able to join our rides whenever she wanted.
As she progressed through the under-15, under-17 and finally Senior ranks both on the road and track she faced no shortage of challenges with health, fitness, and teams falling apart. Despite the numerous setbacks she kept a positive attitude,kept battling, and yet still managed to find time between training and study to bake and deliver brownies for us.
Newspaper clippings on our Cool Wall
Dominion Post Sportsperson of the Year and 2018 Taupo winner
This year Ione applied for Canyon SRAM’s Zwift competition and tirelessly worked her way through the elimination rounds. Three weeks ago she was selected as a finalist and told to pack her bags and join the team’s mid-December training camp in Spain – a massive achievement. The winner gets a professional contract with the team so we’ve got every available finger and toe crossed for her success, but regardless of the outcome Ione has demonstrated that when opportunity knocks she knows how to force the door open so whether with Canyon SRAM or another team there is no doubt in my mind she’ll be picked up by a professional team.
It’s been incredible watching Ione grow up and I’m really excited to see what future this amazing young woman creates for herself. To be continued….
Ps: Ione if you’re reading this I maintain that I talent-scouted you and thus am entitled to 20% of your professional earnings for the duration of your career 🙂
*For the mountain bikers in the house Zwift is a combination of a windtrainer and E-sports where you can digitally train and race other people from around the world.