Elite Road Nationals is just over a week away and racing is set to be epic across the board in the elite men’s and women’s races as well as the U23 races that will take place. We spoke to the man who knows more about donning the fern at the end of a successful national championship campaign than just about anyone, Hayden Roulston, about the championships as a whole, the attraction, the strategy and more.
RC: First of all for professional riders Elite Nationals before the season really starts brings mixed reactions, with some targeting it and some not. What continually attracted you to the Nationals?
Hayden: It was really the only chance where I could race in front of friends, family and supporters and I was never going to turn that opportunity down. Being in Christchurch over the years I won the race also helped so for me, it was always easy to get motivated for this one day race. I loved racing elite nationals, it was always a tough challenge but I used to rise for it.
RC: How much of an adjustment is it in terms of tactical strategy going from a season racing with and for teams to racing in some cases as a complete individual and what sort of things did you have to take into account?
Hayden: It’s always hard going from being a worker to a winner in any race but at the end of the day it just comes down to who is strongest and the fittest on the day. Trying to control a race like nationals is never easy. I was fortunate to have a very hard course in Christchurch and the race would normally take care of itself. I remember year after year though suffering through those early laps up the climb thinking I wasn’t even going to finish the race but I also knew that the riders putting the hurt on would tire eventually and the pace would settle down which was where I was stronger.
Mentally it’s a very hard race. It’s a race you have to be prepared to go hard from the start to the finish if required. In all my years racing nationals I can only remember one time when I waited a long time to make a move. The last time I won I wasn’t race ready but I was very strong so I went very early with Jack even though he didn’t want to come!
RC: What are your thoughts on this year’s race and the kind of competition you are expecting to see in Napier with Jack Bauer, Sam Bewley, Patrick Bevin, George Bennett, Shane Archbold, Alex Frame as well as Joseph Cooper, Jason Christie and a host more all likely to line up?
Hayden: It’ll be a great race. I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds. Top class field and each one of those riders will be in the mix at some point in the race. It’s a war out there and if you do the small things right you can go far in this race.
RC: What sort of things do you have to take into account when you are pondering taking on nationals whilst still having your major goals of the season some months ahead?
Hayden: If you build up to win nationals you have to mentally switch off after. Few more rest days, some easy weeks and that’s more than enough to reset the body for the upcoming season. With Tour Down Under now very close and a very important race for all the teams, all the riders stated above will be on form. Maybe not their best form but good enough form to win if you ride a smart race, which is not easy to do when emotions/egos are involved.