Kiwi looks back on his first season with the Wolfpack, which included an unforgettable win at the National Championships.
I would describe last year as long and unusual. Life is not normal anyway when you are a professional cyclist, but this was strange even for us. But I have really enjoyed my time with Deceuninck – Quick-Step – there is a great atmosphere within the team and I really enjoyed racing with them when I got the chance.
Obviously, it was difficult last year to get the amount of days in that I would normally get, but if I could get my time in just racing, I would. I like to prepare like I do at this time of year and then just pick it back up again. I restarted in Burgos and I felt like I was in good shape and could pick it straight back up again. We had, had an altitude camp leading in to it, so I wasn’t completely a fish out of water, and obviously we had Remco there and Sam going well, so it was enjoyable first race back.
The year had started so well with me taking the New Zealand National Championship. I wasn’t confident going in, I never am overly confident going into a race and I was a one-man team against 15 continental riders on the same team, plus numerous other professionals. It could have gone anyway, but I had a plan going on and after the Australian races I knew that my form was going well. It all worked out the way that I wanted to in the end and I was happy to capitalise on that. I can’t defend it this year, with the Championships at the normal time in the middle of February, but now that I have won it once I am hoping that things can go back to normal soon and I go back to try and win it again.
We are only a small country in New Zealand but we take pride in representing the nation. To be able to do it once every few years at the Olympics or Commonwealth Games is special, but being able to wear the jersey day in and day out was something super special. I am only sad that I didn’t get to wear it at a Grand Tour – I was down to do the Vuelta but got sick and to wear it on international television and for the people back home to be able to watch would have been nice, but that was a small bit of bad luck. Now I won’t get to wear it in a race again but even to wear it in training is nice.
My first race in the kit was in UAE which was our first encounter with Covid. You will have seen the videos of myself and Sam playing games in our hotel room. It was fun for two days, but I am not sure if we were there for two days or two weeks! I am sure if we had have been there any longer then Sam would have been sick of my need to be entertained! To spend so much time in a hotel under normal circumstances like a race or a training camp is ok because you can plan for it mentally, but when you wake up and get stuck there for three days it is difficult, but wherever I am I try to make the most of it and be spontaneous – it wasn’t all bad, staying in a luxury hotel and playing minigolf, but I wouldn’t have wanted to do it for any longer. It was all about trying to keep the mind positive and it was better than sitting and complaining or venting on social media, where I don’t think there are any positives.
It helped that I was with Sam, who I have such a close relationship with. The wins for him when I was with him in Australia and Burgos meant a lot to me.
Whenever you go somewhere with this team, you know you are in with a good chance of winning, but obviously my preferred situation is to work with Sam and when he is winning it is even better. We have had that relationship for a long time and I like working with him the most purely because I know how hard he works. Even if he is off form, you know he is trying his hardest and has given everything to be there. It doesn’t always work out but I know that most stage races that I go to get a win and it is always enjoyable to be a part of that.
It will be nice to get back to racing in 2021 and hopefully Coronavirus will die down and we can go back to something like normal. I don’t really have any goals. If everything goes well, then I would like to get a start in some of the big races, but on this team that is never guaranteed. So, for me I would like to work hard and show some good form and hopefully I can get in to those important teams.
Photo credit: ©Wout Beel
©Dave Morrison – Elko Media