Ex-pro happy to take back seat

By Roger Moroney

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Former professional cycle racer and now Black Barn events manager Francis de Jager.
Former professional cycle racer and now Black Barn events manager Francis de Jager.

For Black Barn Vineyards events manager and former professional racing cyclist Francis de Jager, slipping the old riding shoes on this evening may come down to the weather.

"I'm a bit of a fair weather cyclist these days," he said with a laugh. "I think I'll leave it to the young guys but hey, I might dust the bike off... we'll see."

As part of the Hawke's Bay Cycling Carnival Black Barn has got in behind two events today, the first a recreational afternoon pedal and the second a full-on training ride for more serious cyclists through the testing Tuki Tuki Valley.

It is dubbed the "Pain Train" and has been running for 15 years as a regular Tuesday night training ride for keen cyclists.

Some of the leading riders to make it in the competitive world of track and road cycling have used it in the past as part of their training programmes and even some visiting professionals, including the US-based Bissell Pro Team, have used it as part of their off-season training schedules.

Mr de Jager rose through the ranks of Kiwi racers in his younger years before embarking in the late 1990s for Europe where he spent nine years racing road and track.

He was taken on by a professional Dutch team and also made up a successful two-man velodrome team.

"My father is Dutch so it was obvious I should head there," he said.

He won several podium spots in his race career and was delighted to take in some of last weekend's Big Save Elite Road National Championship races.

"It was a stunning thing for Hawke's Bay," Mr de Jager said.

It took him back to his days of hard training for what the general public saw as gruelling endurance road races.

"You always train harder than you race - you accumulate race conditions as you go," he said, adding the top riders always had that little bit extra in reserve as they were so exceedingly fit.

Which is where the Black Barn Vineyards Pain Train event which kicks off from the vineyard at 5.30pm comes in.

A tough training ride across the Hawke's Bay landscape, which will finish at the winery.

The public are welcome to join the more competitive club riders on the ride "and have a nice wine at the end of it all" Mr de Jager added.

"I could possibly have a ride but I think I'll be the host."

A 33km ride along the Bay's cycle trails will get under way from Black Barn at 3pm which will allow recreational riders to soak up the scenery and enjoy a relaxing ride.

One lucky rider will also pick up a new Avanti bike.

Mr de Jager said he was happy to meet and greet those who took part for a bit of a chat about his top riding years.

"This carnival is just such a great thing to be involved in - it's fun."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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