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Proud Kiwi looks to Paris
Jul 18th, 12. On the second rest day of the Tour de France, RoadCycling.co.nz caught up with "proud Kiwi" Greg Henderson who has had a tougher Tour than the results show.
"Not long to go now, two hills, a sprint, a TT and a sprint. I've just got to get through these next two days then I've done it. I can say I've made it," the Kiwi said.
On a 29 degree afternoon in Pau on the northern edge of the Pyrenees, Henderson shared a few additional details of his Tour to date.
While the first week was chaotic, Henderson was pleased to be riding within himself.
"I was actually doing alright in the first week, I was in control and there was never a day when I thought, 'oh oh, here we go, I'm in trouble'.
"There was never a day when I got to the line completely spent. I was within myself, really happy - my preparation was perfect, my form was perfect. It would have been only my fault if I didn't turn up in perfect condition - it's the Tour de France and no one is going to turn up not in good condition."
Unfortunately, on the first rest day of the Tour, Henderson woke up sick. He then had to work extra hard to get up and over the Alpes with a head cold that left him fighting for breath.
"On the rest day I think my body had a day to relax and it just relaxed, and I got sick. I think I'm on the way out of that now anyway," he said, having finished his last dose of anti-biotics yesterday.
"Normally, to recover from that you'd have 2-3 days off and then 2-3 days easy and you'd be right - but unfortunately here we hit the Alpes, and they're not easy for me!
"I'm on the way out, I'm off the antibiotics and now it's just stuck here [sinuses] in the mornings. There are just two more days now I'm worried about, but a fair few others are worried about them too."
The two toughest days to comeTomorrow the peloton starts two of the hardest days of the Tour, the days in highest Pyrenees.
While Henderson's teammate Jurgen van den Broeck will be up the front trying to work his way up from 5th on GC, the Kiwi will be with what he hopes is a big group down the back of the race.
The bigger the group, the more chance the groupetto will be allowed to continue the race even if they finish outside the time cut.
"We met up with Lampre training today and we were chatting with them, working out the time cut and how many people we need in the groupetto - everyone is so tired, you can just see it in the peloton.
"If there is a big enough group, 1/3 of the peloton, we get to keep going. We're thinking through all the scenarios - safety in numbers is what we're thinking."
With his health issues, Henderson says he has particularly struggled in the first 25km of each day's race - which tends to be ridden at absolute flat out pace.
"Yesterday I was out the back and I just knew I had to move up, but I just could not move from last wheel. So I had to take a risk on the downhill, I moved up around 100 places.
"I feel the power in my legs are back compared to a couple of days ago. I have to be better tomorrow, there is no way I can't be. It's going to be one of those days where you have to go hard all day to get in within time cut."
One thing Henderson can count on, is Kiwi support along the roadside. He said it definitely lifts his spirits.
"You just know that's it is all for you - as you're the only Kiwi in the race!" he joked. "They are all yelling, 'Go Hendy, Go Hendo, or Go Kiwi" it's amazing how many there are.
"I am even starting to get comments from the other guys in the bunch, 'Here we go, here's Hendy's support club again. I always wave if I see the flag or the silver fern or occasionally an All Blacks sign."
"I'm a proud Kiwi anyway," he said when asked if the support makes him a proud Kiwi.
"I met some crazy people at the start the other day. I came out of the bus and they started screaming at the top of their lungs - all the cameras turned to see what was happening. 'Hendy, Hendy, you're awesome' - the next thing Eurosport was over there filming them!
Form is still good for the coming week
With five days of the Tour to go, then the Olympic road race a week after that, Henderson is pleased his form is holding well - despite his illness.
"I've lost so much weight and fat - I'm down to 4% fat, 71kg - I've lost a kilogram and a bit which isn't too bad after two weeks.
"I thought I might have lost a little bit more as I struggled so much in the mountains with my cold, but my appetite obviously hasn't been affected!"
Two more sprint stages to go?
On paper there are two more opportunities for Henderson to help Greipel to win - Stage 19 and the finale along the Champs Elysees - but only if Lotto Belisol get some help to bring back the inevitable break.
"I guess teams will have to decide how much they want that stage or Champs Elysees. I want to win that one so badly, but so does everyone. When I say I want to win, I want to win on the Champs Elysees with Greipel," he clarified.
"They say it really goes fast those last laps into Paris - it's just so hard apparently. On TV it looks deceptive, but it's definitely up hill and with those cobbles people say it is just so hard. They are not just little clinkers, they are real cobbles!
"It would be nice to do another sprint before then, for sure Mark Cavendish wants it. Maybe Team Sky will help with the chase as the Tour is pretty much over for Bradley Wiggins by then.
"If Sky, us and GreenEdge put some riders on the front there is a chance for another sprint - all it needs is three teams with a couple of riders each.
"JJ Haedo is also going really well but his SaxoBank Tinkoff Bank team always seem to have a rider in the break, and it means he can't chase - his hands are tied. Maybe if Saxo don't go in the break that day they can help too and we can have a sprint.
"It's all about the numbers game."
The Tour de France dream
This is Henderson's first Tour de France after six years as a professional rider. He was massively disappointed to miss out on a role in his team the last two years, but now that he is here, he is too busy working hard to reflect.
"It is going to be beautiful once/if I've finished maybe a week after the Olympics when I am sitting back and relaxing and thinking back over this month. I think that will be a really nice time and I think that's when I will appreciate it most.
"Then if I see some of the bunch sprint finishes - I haven't seen any yet - and I see a few stages where I've done really nice leadouts, then I'll look back and appreciate those. Then I'll look at the mountains and go, I got over those things!
"I think that's going to be nice, the week after the Olympic Games. Then I can relax and take it all in. I mean, it's amazing, it's an incredible atmosphere isn't it."
More later ...
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