Greg Henderson Interview: Sky Procycling rider hoping to make Tour debut at 34
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Greg Henderson Interview: Sky Procycling rider hoping to make Tour debut at 34

by Xylon van Eyck at 7:51 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Kiwi could fight for stage victories in cycling’s biggest event

Greg HendersonIt seems hard to believe but at 34 years of age, Greg Henderson is only in his fifth year as a professional cyclist. The New Zealander claims that because of his late start in the professional ranks, he still feels fresh and has a lot to offer. Australians have become a force to be reckoned with in cycling, while the number of New Zealand professionals are increasing every year.

“The thing you get with us guys from Down Under is we have to succeed,” said Henderson in an interview with VeloNation, explaining why they are often more determined that some European riders.

Henderson could bemaking his Tour de France debut this year thanks to a strong display of form all season. He won stages in Paris-Nice and the Tour of California, and has been doing well in other events. While illness forced him to quit the recent Tour of Luxembourg, he is now at the Tour of Suisse to convince Team Sky of selection for the Tour.

He spoke to VeloNation this week about the role he’d play in the French race if he were selected and why riders from Down Under have been so successful in Europe.

VeloNation: You had a very successful first year with Team Sky, clocking up nine victories. Was the transition from High Road easy for you?

Greg Henderson: The transition was made very simple. It was like racing for my national team. They are good guys, friendly. And the one big thing was that Team Sky believed in me, gave me confidence. It makes a huge difference when you have directors and coaches who know what you are capable of.

The other obvious thing that made the transition easy was the guys on the team. I had a lot of close friends on Columbia[now HTC Highroad] so moving on was a bit daunting. However my team mates are all committed, well-respected guys and generally good fun to be around.

VN: You've done the Giro and the Vuelta, in which you've won a stage, but not the Tour de France as yet. Are you on the shortlist this year?

GH: From what I understand I am on the short list…

VN: If you are going to the Tour, what role will you play in the team?

GH: Well, I'll be honest with you. If I go to the Tour it won't be to support Brad in the Mountains (laughs). I'll be going there to race to the line in the bunch sprints. Either taking EBH [Edvald Boasson Hagen] to 200 metres to go, or sprinting to the line myself.

I’m also very handy in a TTT situation. I have raced team pursuits for twelve years so riding close on a wheel on a time trial bike is second nature to me.

VN: What gets you out there on your bike training, day after day?

GH: Many things really. I'll list a few in no particular order: Family to feed, fear of failure, enjoyment, fitness and health, social, routine and discipline. They all are factors.

Greg HendersonVN: You are turning 35 this year. How many years do you reckon you have left on your bike? People like Chris Horner and Jens Voigt (both turning 40 this year) are raising the bar…

GH: The thing with me is I'm 34 and been pro for just four years. This being my fifth, I'm not burned out in the slightest. I'm still learning races. I just competed in Luxembourg for the first time. A lot of this is still very new to me and I'm enjoying it. A lot of guys my age have been pro for fourteen years and have massive doses of CBF [couldn’t be f**ed] for every race, bar a few.

VN: How good is Geraint Thomas, really? How far can he go?

GH: He is, in my opinion, a very well rounded bike racer. There isn't a lot he can't do well. I have no clue how far he can go. That's up to him and what direction he chooses. But, whatever direction that may be, I'm pretty confident he will be at the pointy end of the bike race.

VN: You are quite outspoken against riders who have tested positive for banned substances. Where do you see in cycling's future?

GH: I wouldn't say I'm outspoken at all. I just don't like clowns making a mockery of the sport I love. There is a difference between a rider who tests positive and someone who repeatedly ignores the rules and again and again takes the piss out of cycling.

I hope to see cycling continue to head in the correct direction. I believe it has changed a lot but, to be honest, I never got to see the pro peloton before 2007. So I really have no first hand clue on what it used to be like. But I have a lot of friends over here who will tell you in a heartbeat that cycling is changing.

VN: Will you be one of the sprinters throwing your name into the hat for a Worlds win this year? How strong can Team New Zealand be?

GH: All going well that is my final goal for the year, the Worlds. New Zealand won't be setting up a leadout train from five kilometres out or anything but for sure we have some strong guys that can be competitive in the final of the race.

VN: Cycling in New Zealand seems to be growing…there are five guys in the ProTeams now…

GH: Correct, there’s five. And about another five capable of riding at this level. It's just hard to get your name out there when you come from New Zealand.

For sure now though when a young Kiwi comes along to race, guys like myself and Julian Dean etc have not done the Kiwi name any harm. The thing you get with us guys from Down Under is we have to succeed. We have to win/race well because we have packed up our lives. Often girlfriends/wives kids have moved everything over. If we fail we go home to NZ or Aussie with nothing and start from scratch.

Obviously the Kiwis are a little tougher than the Aussies as we cut the way over here by ourselves. Aussies have had good guidance by a terrific national program which is a massive advantage over the Kiwis. Okay, we are tougher, but Aussies and Kiwis are peas in a pod. I’m actually married to an Aussie!

But seriously….when you get a rider from Down Under on your team, you know 99% of the time you will get someone determined to succeed.

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