Cycling: Retiring Dean true team player

Julian Dean is a true team player and that attitude has seen him never out of work.

For 17 years and across thousands of kilometres alongside the best riders on the planet, the Waihi-born Kiwi had risen to be among the best in his business.

That business was selflessly working for others, positioning other riders to make it to the finish to grab some of the biggest moments in cycling and he became known as one of the best lead-out riders in the world.

"You have to learn to value yourself and I've got the respect of my peers which means a lot," Dean told The Daily Post over a beer at Okere Falls Store.

"A team-mate telling me I rode a sensational lead-out and they wouldn't have won without me is so fulfilling. I'm not someone who seeks out the limelight for myself."

The soon to be 38-year-old's job is now off the bike as he retires from racing and moves into an assistant sport director role with Australia-based team Orica GreenEdge.

When he first started as a professional rider he said he "fumbled" his way from race to race but those early years in Europe were more about having an adventure.

"It was more about getting the chance to live in Europe than race because I didn't know if I had what it took," he said.

In his first Tour de France in 2005, Dean wasn't expecting much. Five weeks earlier he had broken both elbows but when told he was to help star rider Thor Hushovd in the sprints, he grabbed the opportunity despite his misgivings.

"At that point in my career, if I didn't take the opportunity I might never have gotten to ride the Tour de France at all. As it turned out we formed a great relationship and worked well together and I started enjoying what I was doing."

Dean's new job will see him mentoring and coaching the GreenEdge riders, helping with team strategies and honing riders' skills.

Dean believes his sport is in good heart and there are now great opportunities for Anglo-Saxon riders. When he first started out it was dominated by Europeans and riders like himself were grateful just to get signed up.

"The globalisation of the sport has been really good for cycling. There are a lot fewer races in Europe now but there are others popping up all over the world, it's great."

Dean said he never witnessed drug-taking.

"Even now when I hear or read about it I still find it unbelievable and wonder how much of it is hype and how much is reality. It's sad it's happened but the sport isn't what it was back then. It's a sport I'm proud of."

He was proud to be part of the Garmin team, formed on a philosophy of total transparency, leading the way for other teams and indeed, the sport of cycling.

The changes he has seen have given Dean plenty of faith in cycling's future and he is happy to be ending his racing days at the New Zealand national championships, which he won in 2007 and 2008.

He wanted to ride his final race in his home country, despite not having raced much in New Zealand during his career. He has the Herald Sun Tour in Melbourne to race first as a warm-up.

"I had always planned to retire in 2012 but had hoped it would be after another Tour de France and the London Olympics."

A serious crash which resulted in a broken leg while racing in Spain in March put paid to both - the Tour de France because he wasn't ready and the Olympics because he wasn't selected, although he's confident he would have been ready.

The broken leg was "pretty severe" and as with other injuries sustained over the years, it could have been the end of his racing days. But Dean has never been one to give up. He's made of stern stuff which has earned him huge respect on the world stage and it saw him through another comeback. "When things get turned against me and people tell me something is impossible, that's when I think I'm at my best."

The decision to retire now official, Dean is coming to terms with his new life and looking forward to spending more time with his family - wife Carole and sons Tanner, 7, and Val, 4. The aim is to eventually be based in Rotorua, at the family's Hamurana property overlooking Lake Rotorua, rather than the village in Spain where they've been based for all but a few months of every year.

"I like [Rotorua]," said Dean. "There are lifestyle opportunities here. It's one of the best places in the country."

And while he is finished riding competitively, Dean is not about to hang up his cycling shoes for good. "I'll always ride. Looking out across the lake I think how could you not want to ride?"

- Rotorua Daily Post

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