After taking a hard fought second place at the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, Aaron Gate is in solid shape to hit the track season hard heading towards the new year. We talked to him after his day out around the lake about the race, missing Cambridge, and what’s coming up for the former world track champion.
RC: How important is a race like the Holden Men’s Classic, obviously with the track World Cup and World Championships, and a big Olympic year next year coming up, how important is a race like this in regards to your training and progress?
Aaron: It’s always good to have a good day out on the road, and it’s a lot more fun to race than do a long solo training ride by yourself. Also it forces you to push yourself a little bit harder which was definitely the case today. It was a hard race to be in the breakaway for well over three quarters of it, and this sort of time is where you want to try and have the longer hard rides now where you have a lot more of a base to press on from and build the more intense training on top of moving into the next part of the season.
RC: Going through the race, you had an advantage in the break of about a minute and a half for more than half of the day, was it going through your head at any point ‘we’re going to get caught’ or were you pretty confident?
Aaron: Definitely was [thinking we’re going to be caught]. It’s a bit demoralising when you feel like you’ve been going as hard as you can and you get the time check and it’s a minute ten, and you get another time check 10km later and it’s a minute twelve; and you think ‘err this isn’t going so well’. I think just the fact that the peloton might have gotten blown around a bit which meant that there weren’t so many guys chasing us [meant that we were able to stay away]. If it had been a peloton of 80 it might have been a different story but I think just the fact that the wind and the conditions were so testing today meant that it put everyone on more of a level playing field whether you were in the breakaway or in the peloton.
RC: And how important was the combination of that breakaway? You had three riders in yourself, Dion [Smith] and Sam [Horgan] who are well seasoned at racing at a UCI Continental level; and you also had Alex West who was possibly the surprise of the break but he hung in really, really well.
Aaron: I was amazed at how well Alex was going. I was thinking that for a young guy early on ‘oh you’re going to blow yourself up if you’re going this hard’ but he just kept going and going. I think he was a diesel all day, even on the climbs he was pushing a pretty hard tempo through that rough section about halfway through. But it was a mix of riders, we had Sam pulling some big turns on the flats, Dion was riding well all day, and I was just trying to hang in there and do what I could. It was a good combination of guys and just a bit of a shame that Alex and Sam got caught after putting in the hard yards all day. But Dion really put the after burners on going up Hatepe and I was lucky just to stay on him.
RC: Looking ahead, you’re not going to be competing at the World Cup in Cambridge, where are you in relation to obviously the World Championships in London? Are the points in the bag in that regard or will you be doing the third round?
Aaron: At this stage I’m probably going to have to do the third round just to be safe. I think, as far as I’m aware, that Olympic qualification is secured but it’s the worlds one that is still up in the air a bit. So still some racing to do, but it will be good coming into the World Cup with a bit more form, rather than showing up and trying to get points; it’s not really the way you want to approach racing these days! You want to go in trying to win every competition you’re doing so that’s the goal from here on in.
RC: You’ve got the bronze medal from the Olympics in the team pursuit, you’ve been world champion in the omnium; and we all know that you’re a bit crazy when it comes to points races! So where will your focus be when it comes to discipline?
Aaron: At this stage it’s still kind of open ended. I still really, really enjoy the team pursuit I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop doing, it’s just so much fun especially when you’re training with your close mates, doing all the training sessions together and everything. There’s just something about it which is just so much fun especially as it gets faster and faster and faster too. I’m still trying to keep in that squad and have the omnium as a possibility too.