Bruce Biddle has been part of the driving force behind a surge of support for our U23 riders over in Europe. With a youthful New Zealand outfit ready to hit Belgium this weekend, Biddle is hoping that the likes of these riders will reach the point of being able to eventually produce a first New Zealand U23 world champion on the road.
This weekend sees the U23 Gent-Wevelgem event take place with Sam Dobbs, Sam Gaze, Tom Carter, Ollie Jones and Ryan Christensen all in the mix. This will serve as a prelude to the U23 Tour of Flanders which will also see Matias Fitzwater join the frame. We took the chance to chat to Bruce Biddle about why he’s chosen to put his support into our young riders.
RC: First of all why have you got stuck into this big undertaking with these U23 rider?
Bruce: Because I believe that there is quality in New Zealand road cycling. We have always had good road cyclists. The problem is that we don’t have the facilities in New Zealand to prepare our young ones. We have the coaching, we have the quality, we need the racing at international level, and we need a national team of under 23 for the younger ones to look up to. Same as the track, a national team that all the under 23 want to be part of.
RC: What is it you are wanting to see as the end result of the work you’re doing with these U23 riders?
Bruce: A world champion. It’s as easy as that. We can do it, we have to get there in the end. One day I want to see an under 23 World Champion.
RC: Tell us about the Belgian campaign. Can you give us a sense of the importance of these events and what they mean to the U23 global cycling scene?
Bruce: The races in Belgium are important because we are after points. The more points we score the bigger the team at the next world championships in Norway. But apart from that, the races there are important because there will be only international teams riding in them. We will be up against the world’s best under 23 cyclists. Belgium is the home of the classics. You never know what you are going to get on the day. You can get rain, hale, snow and sunshine in one day, and wind of course. There will be a lot of interest, a lot of followers, interested in this category. The next step from here is to professionalism. You can imagine how much interest there will be around these young cyclists.
RC: The U23 Gent-Wevelgem is on Sunday. What will you hope to see from the team as they go up against teams from Belgium, the USA, Germany, the Netherlands etc?
Bruce: I’m more than confident. They will put in an effort that will be well over 150%. Mostly because they will be riding for their country, something that they don’t get to do very often if at all. Also because the Ghent-Wevelgem and Flanders the week after are important races. They will come away with a good result.
RC: What’s the atmosphere like among the team at the moment. What’s exciting you about the team that you have in Belgium?
Bruce: The atmosphere is that of the big occasion. I love their enthusiasm, their serious approach. Dirk has been giving the instructions and helping with the organisation of behind the scenes. They are all tuned in and exchanging information. They’re already a team, they want to ride as team and they want to surprise. They won’t surprise me.