The New Zealand U23 team have been through ups and downs a plenty in Europe so far, as they’ve looked to establish themselves on the international scene in Belgium and now in Italy. We took the chance to talk to Ryan Christensen about the journey so far.
RC: First of all as you sit in a bit of a transitional phase between Belgian Classics and Italian racing, how has your experience of the season so far met with your expectation?
Ryan: I’ve been back in Italy for about 3 weeks now and it’s been a great experience, the training is like no other and breakfast lunch and dinner is all at a hotel restaurant so makes our lives a lot easier, just focusing on training and racing. We have had 1 race so far as a New Zealand team and was not our luck. It was an U23 international tour on the Strade Bianche course which made for carnage. Having the Kiwis living together has made the whole experience an enjoyable one as we all get on really well. Makes for some good banta.
RC: What have been your strongest highlights of the past couple of months?
Ryan: Racing against 20 plus nations with their 6 best riders and knowing that you are one of the riders that can mix it up in the race is a great feeling.
RC: There’s been a bit of misfortune in the National team camp, especially with most of the team all ending up in the same hospital after the same race on one occasion. Has this emphasised just how many things need to go right to be successful in cycling?
Ryan: It’s always hard in a UCI Nations Cup U23 race so I have come to realise. There isn’t any pecking order the the peloton so you have a lot of riders who think they can ride the front when physically they shouldn’t. It causes for a lot of nervousness in the peloton and one small touch of the wheel can bring down a lot of riders. This is what happened in our race at Flanders. 5 km before the cobbled climb, The Muur, the team were moving up and we were on the outside about 15th wheel and someone clipped wheels in front of us, it brought us all down. It was a heart-breaking end to the race as we had a real shot at getting a good result.
RC: Tell us about the racing you’ve got coming up in Italy, and what you personally will be targetting.
Ryan: We have a few more international 1 day races in the lead up to 1 of the main targets this year, the U23 Giro D’Italia which starts on the 9th of June and finishes on the 15th of June. I personally will be targeting the Giro overall and potentially a stage win if my GC doesn’t go the way I want it.
RC: What has it been like being around the likes of Bruce Biddle. What affect has he had on the team?
Ryan: Bruce is very knowledgeable and we are getting a lot out of the experience we have been given this year. There are some big opportunities that are coming up and wouldn’t have happened if someone didn’t step up and want to see a change to how cyclists in New Zealand make it.