Hamish Bond has been nothing short of a revelation in cycling terms in New Zealand this summer and now he’s putting his ability to the test at the Elite Road National Championships. We got the chance to talk to the two-time Olympic rowing champion about the summer, the weekend, the future and all that jazz!
Four months on bike vs 11 years in boat
When Hamish announced that he would be turning his attention to the road instead of the boat, who could have imagined the kind of impact he would have had? What started off as a simple desire to feel like he could be competitive and make an impact on the sport, evolved into becoming one of the most powerful and strongest riders of the summer. But despite the fact that it’s been – certainly from a spectator’s view – a resoundingly successful season, Hamish Bond seems to be only just now getting into his groove. The year is only just getting started!
“It’s been a good start. I don’t even feel as if I’ve really begun in some ways. When I think about what a rowing season entails, I feel like I’m at the very beginning of what that would look like for me; the equivalent in cycling. So I’ve been training close to four months which is not a super long time when you consider an 11 year senior level rowing career!” Hamish reflected.
“Four months seems like a blink of an eye; and it’s kind of been like that, especially given everything’s been pretty new and I’ve been pretty busy with post-Olympic stuff and also trying to learn and get everything together and draw on resources with what I’ve been doing with cycling.”
“I haven’t really stopped to smell the roses.”
Coronet Peak the highlight so far
So far in a very young involvement in competitive cycling, Hamish Bond is quite clear on the highlight so far; and the chief rose worth smelling on the journey to this point! The Tour of Southland, and most notably the performance by both himself and his Vantage Windows and Doors teammate Michael Torckler on the slopes of Coronet Peak in stage 3 is what stands out most poignantly. A lot happened on that stage. For starters we were awoken to the reality of Hamish’s talent not just in his own right, but his ability to be a super domestique; an element that’s not there to the same degree in rowing. On the water with Eric Murray, Hamish Bond has only really enjoyed joint-success. There’s never been an element within the pair discipline that has seen Murray succeed but Bond fail that kind of team sport. Neither has there been a scenario in the discipline where Bond has had to work to ensure that Murray has succeeded instead of him. But on the slopes of Coronet Peak, Hamish experienced that as he worked tirelessly for Michael Torckler . . . . and he liked it.
“So far [the highlight is] definitely the Coronet Peak stage in the Tour,” Hamish said. “It was quite different for me. When we’re overseas for rowing we’re generally in Europe when the Tour de France is on, and quite often I spend a fair amount of time watching that on TV, and that concept of working for a teammate and them getting the victory . . . you’ve always seen that on TV, but [Coronet Peak] was my first taste of it and in some ways going up Coronet Peak and trying to assist Mike, it was a bit of an eye opener to me of how much joy you can get from someone else’s victory.”
“That was pretty satisfying, and then my performance in itself. Our team had a great lack of experience, we got exposed a few times in terms of positioning in the bunch. But when it was man vs man and when you sort of took tactics out of it I felt I was able to compete on a pretty level playing field which was encouraging.”
Bond would finish 8th overall as Aaron Gate completed part one of a famous double, winning the Tour of Southland overall as well as the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge elite men’s race just a little while later. Bond himself would then go on to win the Abel Tasman Cycle Challenge, minutes ahead of Ollie Jones and Paul Odlin, in a race that featured World Tour professional George Bennett.
Bond – My patience is not great
So from there Hamish now heads towards the Elite Road National Championships in Napier, his first outing there. The time trial will be held on the Friday and the road race on the Sunday, and given his pedigree in rowing and sheer ability to suffer, it’s hardly surprising the discipline that he views himself as better inclined towards.
“[Nationals is] the next logical step isn’t it? It’s the next race on the calendar and it’s an opportunity to benchmark against a lot of the best in the country. I think in my mind my abilities or my mentality is suited towards time trialling and this is the first major opportunity to have a go at that,” Hamish told RoadCycling. “So that will be my focus. The road race . . . who doesn’t want to be the national champ? So that’s the next step. Whether that’s feasible or not in the discipline I don’t know but I’ll give it a shot!”
There is something very appealing about the way Hamish talks about his prospects at nationals. Not many people can speak of winning at their first attempt in a sport that’s not their natural fit and have the attention of everyone around them as a genuine contender who could do it. But that’s what Hamish has accomplished in just a very short time. He’s not of slight build but he blew the field away on Coronet Peak. He’s not too keen on bunch riding but he held his own to place eighth in Southland. He’s tactically inexperienced but in some ways it seems like that plays into his hands. Would it be safe to say that this could be a major ace in his hand, the fact that he doesn’t really know his own strength on the bike but then neither does anyone else?
“Yeah, I guess if you want to be positive!” Hamish chuckled. “That’s been an advantage. I understand what’s going on in a race, but my patience is not great. The thing in cycling is that a lot of the time you have to be prepared to lose to win; someone said to me. You almost at times do have to sit back and let someone else chase and things like that; and that’s not a concept I’m familiar with at all.”
“If there’s a break going up the road and I’m not in it, it’s very difficult for me to sit there, and watch it and not try and [get across]. But all I end up doing is bringing the whole bunch with me and closing it back down. It’s very hard for me not to go after a race and to sit back and let things come to me. That’s not really in my nature.”
For that reason, amongst others, it seems clear then that Bond’s obvious strength would be the time trial. But in order to be successful in the time trial Hamish will need to adopt a position unlike any you’ll ever experience in a boat. Top flight riders are meticulous about getting their positioning right for the big moment, so how has that part of preparation gone for Hamish? Bearing in mind that until now he’s never had to ride competitively in that tight aero tuck position, as Southland did not feature aero bars for either the team time trial or individual time trial.
“I’ve broken my approach down into three areas,” Hamish revealed. “First of all for me I think it’s about the power, and proving to myself that I can actually put out the power, because without that you’re not going to go anywhere really. So that’s for me first and foremost. Then you have that more technique side of it, which is your aerodynamics, and cornering and how to use your power and how to conserve it and make it efficient. And my third port of call is equipment. So that’s the sort of approach I’m taking to it. I’m not ignoring any of those three factors and solely going after one, but that’s my priority list if you like: to work on my physiological side of it first of all and try and focus on that. But I haven’t ignored the equipment side of it and I haven’t ignored the aerodynamics side of it.”
He’s certainly not been neglectful of either aspect given the calibre of support that he’s got around him. Bond has benefited from the support of a rider who only retired last year from top flight World Tour racing, and in that time this rider finished 12th in the World Time Trial Championships, including winning six professional races, including two time trials; one being the prologue that led to overall victory in 3 Days of West Flanders.
“I’m working with a couple of people to work on my position. Obviously I don’t want to be rolling around in the wind. I’ve been told that it looks ok and I’ve got some good people helping me. Jesse Sergent has come on board and I’ve been working with him a little bit. It’s fair to say that there are not too many better exponents of the time trial in New Zealand than him. He’s been very generous with his time and helping me out and he thinks that we’re in a good place for just beginning now. When you start something like this it’s hard to go from zero to hero, it’s a progress thing and I feel as though I’m in a good place . . . I haven’t felt uncomfortable, I’ve felt strong, I feel like I’m getting the power out, I’m in a good position and I’ve got something to work with there. But the proof will be in the pudding at the end of the day.”
Success for the weekend and beyond?
The course itself would strike us as being not unfavourable to Hamish; for both the time trial and potentially the road race too. By his own admission, his inexperience in top flight cycling renders him not a foremost authority on judging whether a course is extremely testing or not. He’s certainly recognised a couple of technical points in the time trial that could go against him given his inexperience. So what would a successful weekend look like for the double Olympic rowing champion?
“I don’t think you can really target a time, given that it will be so variable with conditions. I’d love to be on the podium, I’d love to win but I just have no idea what’s feasible! Success for me would be feeling like I got around the track near to the best of my abilities; and I got to the end feeling as though I’d got close to emptying the tank and done it well in terms of using my power wisely and getting the most out of myself,” Bond told us. “Fortunately that sort of effort is not foreign to me. I’ve got the hour rowing machine world record, so that sort of effort is not something that I haven’t done before. It’ll just be a case of working out how exactly that plays out on the bike.”
Beyond the Elite Road Nationals Hamish will be sticking around for quite a while yet on two wheels. It was announced that Bond, Murray and Mahe Drysdale will all be taking a year’s sabbatical from rowing, and Hamish will be using a lot of that time on the bike. “It’s certainly my intention to keep going, it’s just one step at a time,” Hamish said. “I see how I go at each event and plot my course from there. I have my own ideal path or goals that I’d like to achieve but they could be derailed at any point. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had a lot of people who have been very generous with their time and helping me out; there’s been a lot of good will. But I’m also conscious that should I stop performing that good will may dry out pretty quickly! So I intend to keep on improving and as long as that happens my motivation’s pretty high.”
“I know I could do things better with the way my schedule’s been in the last few months, it hasn’t been as dialled in as much as it has been in the past with rowing but I’ve been training hard, but once again I’ve done the vast majority of training by myself. My coach is not from an explicit cycling background so we’re sort of free-styling a little bit and we’ll see how it plays out! We just don’t know.”
Stay tuned for more build up on the #EliteRoadNationals from RoadCycling.co.nz, your home of Kiwi Cycling News.