Rider support can come in many different ways and not just in the ideal world where you win several B grade races and head down to your local bike shop and announce yourself as the next big thing and ride off with a brand new sponsored bike and shop kit and hold the phone waiting for Sagan’s manager to call.
It seems nowadays all club level and juniors cyclists have paid coaches, the latest pro tour level bikes and equipment or even better and know as much if not more than a coach for the worlds top teams.
There has been a huge growth in teams being formed supporting Elite men and women, vets and juniors with some great team racing throughout both islands. The support offered can be in the form of a free kit through to race entries, even equipment sponsors but the main advantage is providing great teams racing and learning experiences for both young and old. Not to mention the camaraderie.
CNZ have the regional Hubs offering support to local riders to progress with help from expert coaches, gym sessions and race entries with the long-term goal of producing Elite track riders to bolster High performance numbers.
Local bike shops are essential in providing support and in the past have employed many an aspiring pro and offered the flexibility around training and racing. Team and individual sponsorship help, but remember it’s not all about what they can do for you, it works both ways. Shop rides are a great way to introduce riders to the sport of the unwritten rules on bike handling and how to look the business. I have been fortunate to have had a few boys come through my development teams that have worked in bike shops and their knowledge and ability to fix bikes whilst we have been away is a huge asset and they always have their bikes in pristine condition.
Personally I believe one of the best forms of support can come in the form of a mentor, someone that can have ideas bounced off them, be brutally honest and provide some practical advice when needed on and off the bike. Networking by perhaps asking one of the riders who have been racing in a team overseas and returned in their off season if you can have a ride and a coffee or someone that has raced in the past I think you’ll find there are some quite receptive riders, just make sure your paying for the coffee!
Our U19 junior men have been fortunate to enjoy the hospitality whilst racing in Canada via ex Louis Garneau pro Brett Tivers. Brett had formed such an excellent relationship whilst racing in Canada with the Louis Garneau team ,he messaged Louis personally in Quebec and we have been able to stay at the Garneau team house and Louis has provided us with helmets, glasses and socks to complement our NZ kit; another example of rider support.
I recently took some U19 junior riders to Christchurch to race the Elite series final round and arranged a coffee ride with Keagan Girdlestone which was a hugely rewarding experience for both parties and to hear Keagan’s passion for the sport was truly inspiring after a near death experience.
The difference that support from non-material things can be all that is needed to keep riders in the sport and judging by the numbers of riders male and female progressing through to U23 as well as numbers in Vet racing we are heading in the right direction.
So let’s support our clubs, local and regional racing, our local shops, our volunteers and comm’s, bike friendly business and sponsors because they support our sport.