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Team overview - Wheelworks Racing

WWThumbFeb 7th, 11.  Organised cycling teams are popping up at most New Zealand events at the moment, but not all have the same ambitions - meet Wheelworks Racing.



Team Manager (and sponsor) Tristan Thomas preparing the team car for a day of racing ©

Wheelworks Racing isn't a team of riders looking for a pathway to the pro-peloton, on the other hand they are not a social group of friends who just choose to race in the same kit - they are riders who want to make the most out of their chosen sport.


The group, aged between 23 and 30ish, take maximum advantage of friendship and the outcome is competitiveness.


Although they met a year ago when Chris Kendall gathered a group to race the Tour of Wellington, the team didn't decide to continue and formalise WheelWorks Racing until last winter.


When Kendall gathered the team originally, the riders knew of each other from the Wellington Sunday bunch scene, but they weren't a group of friends.  


They certainly are now.  Comaraderie is a core value of the group.


Sarah from was invited to spend time with them after a stage in the Trust House Cycle Classic  - they seemed like a group of lifetime friends.


Wheelworks supporters chalk encouraging messages ©
The team is much bigger than just the riders too - girlfriends handed out water bottles, parents prepared post-race picnics and supporters chalked the roadside.


Their goals at the Wellington tour were mixed.  Along with race goals were fun goals such as getting the team car (a much loved falcon) ahead of the peloton to follow a break group - they succeeded.  


Nutrition was taken seriously, but team bottles full of lollies were thrown to spectators.  


No matter how hard the racing got, this team found a way to make it fun.


The Wheelworks Racing team at the Trust House tour was; Andy Hagan, Chris Kendall, Daniel Coombes, Greg Taylor and Michael Naylor.  Manager Tristan Thomas.


Hagan finished the tour in 13th place and the team was 12th in the team's classification - Wheelworks Racing will be back again next year.


Wheelwork Racing's background

Over the winter months of 2010 the group gathered at Wheelworks, the business of team sponsor - custom wheel maker Tristan Thomas.  


Together they discussed what they each wanted from a team, and determined their common goals.  Everything was decided by committee - even the kit (like hearding cats I imagine!).


They recognised they didn't have pro-tour ambitions and all the hard training they were putting in was a choice, cycling was their hobby.


Chris Kendall trying to remember this is fun as he rode the Wallaceville Hill circuit ©

They wanted to make it as fun as possible.  


It's not that winning isn't part of that, it definitely is, but that being part of something bigger than one rider was important.


After meeting the team at the tour, joined sponsor and manager Tristan Thomas at his Lyall Bay studio to discuss the development of the team.


He explained how these riders used to go off to cycle events around the country, often with their girlfriends.  When they had a bad race they came back to their accommodation grumpy, then felt a tad guilty for ruining what they had told their partners was a 'holiday'.


"Now, if you have a bad day you get teased about it, have a laugh, have some food with everyone else, congratulate them on how well they did - it's such a different atmosphere.  All the girlfriends are there handing out bottles on the side of the road we have a really good time.  Why wouldn't you do this as a team," he said.


The team had their first big success when they won the yellow jersey at the Tour of Vineyards at the start of this year.  Andy Hagan has been there, or thereabouts for a few years, but having stepped up his training this season, and with the motivation and support from his team, he has begun delivering big results.


Hagan is highly competitive, he doesn't enter races just to cruise around the course, which gives the others on the team a focus.  For riders who had been unable to get better results than 12th (an inhouse joke apparently), being part of winning a tour was huge. 


Thomas knew Kendall from earlier days when Kendall was a mountain biker. When Thomas set up Wheelworks the two discussed whether they could do something together.  Personalities were important - as a sponsor he would prefer a genuine good bloke to a whiny winner any day - even if one got to the top of the podium more than the other.


"I never had any intention to support or sponsor a road team, it wasn't until the Tour of Wellington last year that it fell together," Thomas explained.  


"Those five guys got on really, really well as friends, as people. They are all super nice guys, you can enjoy a beer or coffee with any of them.  When things got rolling, and they wanted to do something a little more formal I thought, hell yeah - these are guys that I actually want to spend time with."


Wheelworks Racing's future

Wheelworks Racing is bigger than the current set of riders, although they don't know what that means quite yet.  


"Somehow it's about the wider community,  What we are going to do about that, we don't know yet.  One thing we keep talking about is doing some kind of junior development.  The guys want to give back.  It has been talked about too much not to happen," said Thomas.


The team have experienced riders, such as Greg Taylor who represented NZ in Europe as a 17 year old, and they all value having someone they could call upon for guidance and help in their early years.  According to Thomas, they are now at the age they want to pass that knowledge back.


The New Zealand racing scene will only be enhanced by teams like this who take the best of road cycling - friendship, hard work and team work - and pass their passion on to the next generation of riders.


Tomorrow's article - What is Wheelworks.



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