Chapter 4: The Midas Touch
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the Greek Myth of the “Midas Touch” whereby the King Midas was granted the ability to turn anything he touched to gold. Well this past couple of weeks a couple of riders from our team have enjoyed such fortune.
Fresh off the plane from Belgium Aaron Gate set about getting into the swing of things. On Friday 16th of July we all packed into Big Black and set off for Trexlertown to race in The Golden Wheel race a night of pro track racing culminating in believe it or not The Golden Wheel Race. For those unfamiliar to wheel racing it is usually a mile long and has scratch race heats to determine with the top 6 riders from each heat going through to the final, its a prestigious big money race that is a crowd favourite. We were lucky enough to qualify two riders Aaron and Sam for the final which is usually the last race of the evening. Before the last race Hamish stepped his game up a notch or two and lit the fire to take out the Super Sprint Elimination race with an excellent attack at the end of the race.
Above: Team NZ Procyclings Sam Steele tearing it up in the break.
The final of the wheel race started out extremely fast with riders trying to catch the front markers. Sam Steele and Aaron Gate found each other at about the halfway mark. Next thing Aaron attacked with Sam glued to his wheel, they gapped the chasing bunch, worked hard together and in a phenomenal result Aaron took 1st place and Sam took 2nd! This is outstanding result for a couple of young kiwi lads against top professional track riders from across the globe. Hamish, Andy and Myself just about lost our voices yelling in support from inside the track. Aaron received the rock star treatment getting interviewed by the television stations and receiving flowers and kisses from the podium babes. Its always a laugh listening to reporters try and say “Motatapu” and “Waiwera”. Great to have Aarons name engraved alongside Olympic and World Champions.
Above: Sam and Aaron after taking 1st and 2nd Place in the World Series of Bicycling Golden Wheel Race.
The next day it was a off for a quiet coffee ride to prepare for the next days racing. When I say coffee ride more often than not the places we stop for coffee turn out to be horrific. The coffee often tastes like burnt tree bark, but we stopped into this place in a sleepy country town called Fleetwood, we were greeted at the door by a waiter, escorted to the bar and served the best coffee I have tasted outside New Zealand. It was no Rosehip in Gladstone Road but man it was light years ahead of some of the stuff we have ran into! I know some of you will think that this part of the update is a wee bit irrelevant but after my second year living and racing with bike riders from all over the globe I can tell you this: short, tall , fat, skinny, black, brown, white, old and young more often than not a cyclist is often a coffee lover. Or as Sam would say “A slave for coffee”.
Above: The boys enjoying a hard earned brew after a hot days training in the sun.
Sunday rolled around and we made the journey down to Mullica in New Jersery’s famous and beautiful Blue Berry lands for the Ronde Van Mullica. There wasn’t much time to enjoy the scenery as the race started pretty fast and we managed to get Andy, Gatey and Sam into the first substantial break. Things were looking good but a couple of teams started pulling hard and according to the boys no one in the break was willing to work too hard to make it stay away.
We all stayed near the front and spent the last 40km of the race controlling things with a couple of the other squads. Andy with his massive diesel engine shut down break after break it was bloody good to see him mowing attacks down left, right and center. Its been an impressive transformation seeing Andy come from full time Civil Engineer to “super domestique”.
Near the finish Hamish made the call to set up a lead out train for Aaron. So I jumped up near the front with Andy, Sam, Hamish and Aaron in that order. The speed was hovering around the 55km mark thanks largely to Alliance Environmental who were trying to set up their sprinter. I chopped in behind three of their riders and things were starting to shape up nicely. Then out of the corner of my eye I sensed a rider come on my right, he started to lean into me trying force me off the wheel in front, Bugger that, I used a cheeky tip Keirin Champ Simon Van Velthooven has taught me and gave him an elbow and a bit of a head butt right back, after the physical warning he promptly got the picture and backed right off (into the gravel siding, whoops). With about 800m to go I was getting inpatient as we needed the speed to stay high so no one would come round us, with 700m to go Andy yelled “light it up Canny” so I started the lead out at about 60km coming round the Alliance train and onto the front and buried myself keeping the speed high, Andy took over 200m later and squeezed the speed up a few more kms, then Sam let loose propelling Hamish to the line in 1st place!!!! In the confusion Aaron had been boxed, he managed to man handle his way to 4th. So our first road win on USA soil and we also got a 4th, we were stoked!
Full credit to Hamish, it is an outstanding result for a 19 year old and he showed a glimpse of the big future he has in the sport. Also a great result considering it was only at the 1km mark he realised Gatey had been forced off his wheel and he had to ride for the win. This shows his maturity as a rider and a gutsy effort to back himself for the win. Well done mate, you did us proud.
Post race the organisers invited us back to their house for a post match function. Wow, the last bike rider to stay at their place was one Mark Cavendish. Their house was a beautiful mansion on the shores of Hammer Lake in New Jersery. Basically the house itself was a cycling mecca, racing photos on the wall, live Tour de France on the Television, and enough food to feed an army. It was really nice to be treated so kindly after a bloody tough day in the saddle. We had a big carbo loaded meal, spun a yarn with the US pros and had a quick dip in the Lake the hit the road back to Little Bosnia on a high, mission accomplished a track win and a road win in three days, the lads are stepping up.
Above: Gatey and Andy chilling out at the Ronde Van Mullica organisers pad.
Above: Having a well deserved post race dip in the lake, some of the US pros thought we were a wee bit nuts jumping in the lake in our undies.
Fast forward a week and Keirin Cup rolled around, we enduros are a bit of a side show for this event it is mainly a show for the sprinters of the sport, in this case our boys Adam Stewart and Eddie Dawkins get to step up to the plate. Adam had a bit of misfortune and didn’t manage to proceed to the final but Eddie took the hard way after being boxed in and forced to go through the repacharge rounds. He even hit another riders tyre at 70km and tore all the skin off his knuckles. We had a quick chat after this and he told me not to worry as he wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.
The rough lead up to the final just made the big fella more determined, come the final round he was a picture of power and concentration. He lead from the front and just went faster and faster none of the international competition looked like beating him. He bet the best riders from around the world ranging from Italy and Poland to the USA and Canada. This all from a kid who hasn’t even turned 20 yet, I firmly believe he has the makings of a World Champion and mark my words we definitely haven’t seen the best of him yet.
Above: New Zealand Champion and Team NZ Pro Cycling Rider Eddie Dawkins winning the USA Keirin Cup ahead of US Champion Giddeon Massie, Photo courtesy of Anthony Skorochod and www.cyclingcaptured.com.
The next day Aaron, Hamish, Andy, Sam and Myself headed down to the heart of Amish country to the Grandview Gran Prix in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. This was a 60km Criterium on a technical course through the streets of Lancaster. Straight away the race started hard and fast with USA Olympic team member Bobby Lea attacking early on in a solo break. We were all feeling pretty good then a mini disaster struck, Sam sitting about 5th wheel on one of the tight bends had his rear tire blow out......he hit the deck.......hard........I quickly stopped and gave him my wheel (as he was one of our protected riders) to get him back in the race as soon as possible, I then went to grab a spare wheel but the officials didn’t allow me back in the race which was a bit of a bugger. Sam carried on doggedly for a couple more laps but it was obvious something wasn’t right and the race doctor waved him in.
In the confusion of the crash Hamish and Andy had been caught in the back half of the field which had now split, their race was over. So it was only left to Gatey to fly the Team NZ Procycling flag and fly it he did. He bridged the gap to the US pro and worked hard with a few other breakaway companions to stay clear of the chasing pack. Coming into the final straight Aaron lead out the sprint and was only passed by two riders. So a 3rd place to Aaron in the Granview Gran Prix in a gutsy display.
The other boys managed to hitch a ride with a local rider back to the apartment and I took Sam to Lancaster General Hospital. After a lengthy wait, some x-rays, a few doctors, one dodgy male nurse Sam was diagnosed with a sprained AC joint. This was a real relief as the crash could have meant an early ticket home for Sam.
Above: Sam Steele, feeling the effects of a concrete cuddle at 50kmph, ouch.
The next day was an early start for all us Enduro boys (minus a very sore Sam) as we headed to the outskirts of New York for the Freedom Tour. This was a Criterium set on a very fast circuit with a small climb before the finishing straight. We were lucky enough to all receive call ups from the race promoters which allowed us to start the race on the frontline thus eliminating the often hectic battle for positions.
The race started very fast with Andy slipping away in a break, but this was quickly brought back. Hamish and Aaron managed to win two of the mid race primes and we were looking pretty good with 14miles to go. Then middle of the bunch some bloke from one of the local teams clipped his pedal on a corner, skipped his back wheel and high sided his bike right in front of me, I managed to drift sideways around the corner and miss this poor blokes head by the skin on my teeth. Hamish was caught up in the crash too. So we sat out a lap and then the commissaries waited till the bunch had well and truly passed before letting us back in (commissaries they can be an interesting breed sometimes). So we chased like hell to get back onto the bunch.
Meanwhile just after the crash a bunch of ten riders had escaped and we had no one in there. I saw Andy stick his hand up which was code to hit the front and start pulling. So Hamish and I Kamikazed our way through the 80 odd riders still left in the bunch to get to the front. This consisted of taking corners at dangerously high speeds and no use of the brakes whatsoever, the most fun on two wheels. We made it to the front in one piece and pulled some hard laps to try and bring things back together for Gatey but couldn’t quite pull it off.
With 2 laps to go Gatey set out solo to bridge to the break, he did quite make it but still rolled in 11th. We were a bit disappointed because Aaron was easily one of the strongest riders in the fields, but that’s just bike racing. A cold can of coke (it was 43 degrees Celsius during the race) and the primes took the sting off losing a bit.
That is all for now, I hope you guys have been enjoying the updates. It has been really nice to receive the emails of support from everyone , keep them coming the boys get really fired up by them. Also best of luck to Team NZ Pro Cycling Rider Pieter Bulling who has touched down in Italy for the Junior Worlds, go hard Piet.
Finally I’m absolutely thrilled to let you everyone know that Team NZ Pro Cycling Riders Simon Van Velthooven, Eddie Dawkins and Adam Stewart have all been selected to ride the Commonwealth Games in India! Also Aaron Gate at only 19 has been selected as reserve for the Mens Track Team. This is a great result and makes all the training, sponsor searching, travel, time away from loved ones and hard racing worth it. These boys absolutely deserve their spots and all the rest of our riders are over the moon for them. Well done lads, bring home some tin.
Once again, thanks for the support. As our Puerto Rican training partners would say Adios Amigos