2016 has been a year of hellos to our first Grand Tour top ten rider, as well as greetings to a host of excellent Kiwi talent waiting to unfold. But it has also been the year of some sad goodbyes with a number of our finest riders hanging up the wheels in part or altogether in 2016.
While there are so many reasons to be excited about the future of New Zealand cycling, there were also a number of reasons to reflect on the last twelve months with a little twinge of sadness as a number of our finest hung up the wheels.
In April Marc Ryan made the call to hang up the wheels some 12 months after finally getting his hands on the rainbow jersey of world team pursuit champion. “It’s been a big decision but I feel like it’s time. I’ve actually tried to retire twice before, after London and then after the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow but I was enticed back both as a rider and to mento the younger guys,” Ryan said at the time. Unlike the other two times though, there’s been no luring him back.
April was also the month that saw Mike Northey forced into retirement. Sadly Northey’s retirement came much more forcefully as a virus which he contracted left him with permanent heart damage. Announcing the news, Northey said, “Everything has to come to an end, sadly for me not the way I envisaged it.” Northey left a legacy that included multiple Criterium National championships, as well as Tour of Southland and Taupo titles and selection for New Zealand that saw him race the Commonwealth Games.
Back on the track Matt Archibald made the decision to hang up the wheels. The 30 year old had been part of Cycling New Zealand’s High Performance Programme for years and was an integral part of the sprint programme with his bronze medal in the World Track Championships in Paris at the kilo discipline a definite highlight. Joanne Kiesanowski also made the decision to step down after a little under two decades of top flight cycling which included World Championships and Olympic performances spread across road and track. The impression she made on Kiwi women’s cycling was massive and left a big cavern of experience. Teammate at TIBCO-SVB Emily Collins is taking a step back in 2017 but we hope that’s just a 12 month sabbatical!
On top of that Gordon McCauley rode his final Tour of Southland. The record was broken for most rides at the SBS Tour of Southland, and Gordon has now stepped away. Sure we will continue to see him race, with the mountain bike even likely making an appearance or few in the coming months; but never again at Southland alas.
Finally another rider said his goodbyes to top flight cycling at the Tour of Southland. Hayden Roulston has stepped away from the role of Olympic medal winning cyclist, cobbled classics hard man and all round tough guy on two wheels; and into the role of coach and enabler of others around him to do the same.
We’re sure we have probably missed a few notable names as well but they are six riders who between them have notched up a pretty mind boggling number of kilometres and amassed more than their fair share of silverware between them. I’m sure many of you who have grown to know them better than we will be able to testify to the fact that it’s their personalities, work ethic and so much more than just their palmares that marks these riders as true champions of our sport who will be greatly missed.
To Matt, Gordon, Joanne, Hayden, Mike and Marc we say thank you and adieu. To Emily we say (hopefully) see you later!