Cycling: Henderson to go on Tour

By Michael Brown

Greg Henderson expects to have to go through a "brick wall" just to complete this year's Tour de France. Photo / Getty Images.
Greg Henderson expects to have to go through a "brick wall" just to complete this year's Tour de France. Photo / Getty Images.

Greg Henderson expects to have to go through a "brick wall" just to complete this year's Tour de France, but it's something the Dunedin cyclist has been desperately wanting to do for a decade.

The 35-year-old has been overlooked for a ride on Le Tour in the past, most recently by former outfit Team Sky, largely because he was a Kiwi on a British team. It has been something Henderson took about as well as being knocked off his bike at high speed.

He's built a good professional record since turning to the road in 2004 and won stages in the Tour of Spain, the Paris-Nice (twice), Tour of Britain, Tour of Catalunya and Tour of California and been in good form in 2012.

His record saw him confirmed as a starter with his new Lotto-Belisol team to ride in this year's Tour de France, which starts with a short prologue on Saturday night. He is the only Kiwi at this year's three-week, 3497km-long event.

His principal job will be to act as Andre Greipel's leadout man in the sprint stages, the same role Julian Dean performed with such distinction in most of his seven Tour de France rides.

Henderson has rarely had weeks as good as the past three. It started with news his mother-in-law had responded well to chemotherapy - he's married to former individual pursuit champion Katie Mactier from Australia - and continued with selection for both the Tour de France and New Zealand team to contest the road race at the upcoming Olympics.

"[It's been] three weeks in a row of good news," said Henderson, who will compete in his fifth Olympics but first on the road. "It's a massive emotional rollercoaster for me right now.

"My headspace is absolutely in the correct place. I have never been so motivated for the next six weeks."

It helps he is good friends with many of his Lotto-Belisol teammates and is prepared to do what it takes to help their chances of success.

"It's not like I am riding with teammates," he said, "I am riding with friends. It makes a massive difference. I would ride through a brick wall for any of them.

"There are going to be times when you have to ride through your own brick wall just to make the finish. When it comes to the last 200m there are going to have to be times when you go early, when you go late, fast or slow. You do it for a friend. For prior teams, I would do my job, get out the way. There has been no emotion tied to it and then I had the big letdowns from winning the most races on the team but still getting denied the Big Show. Now I am riding with friends, it's a big, big difference."

As gruelling as the Tour de France is, there will be days when Henderson can take it easier. He will need to be near the front of the peleton when it comes to the end of the nine sprint stages but merely has to survive mountain stages inside cutoff times and complete the two individual time trials.

He's done three blocks of altitude training to prepare - the last one in his house in Girona, Spain.

"My last stint at altitude was in my living room in an altitude tent," he said. "Basically it was a bachelor pad - PlayStation, movies. Whenever I wasn't riding my bike, I was living and sleeping at 2500m."

- APNZ

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