Sport career fine fit with Altum work

Cycling is a passion for Altum lower South Island area sales manager Simon Croom. Photo from Pascal Sutherland Photography.
Cycling is a passion for Altum lower South Island area sales manager Simon Croom. Photo from Pascal Sutherland Photography.
When Simon Croom swapped his rugby jersey for cycle shorts, little did he know where it would lead.

A head injury led the Englishman to making the transition from rugby to cycling, when medical professionals advised he would be ''crazy'' if he played rugby again, and he has since cycled alongside some of the stars of international cycling.

Mr Croom, who initially came to New Zealand in 2003 to look at New Zealand's dairy farming systems and play some rugby, is lower South Island area sales manager for fertiliser and animal-nutrition company Altum.

From a farming background in the UK, he travelled to New Zealand after completing an agriculture degree with honours.

Dairy farming in New Zealand was of interest to him and being able to play rugby as well was a ''win-win'' situation.

After a trip to Sydney to watch England beat Australia in the final of the Rugby World Cup, his arm was twisted to play another season, based in northern Southland.

But in that second season, he did not play many games, after a ''fairly hard knock'' which left him with a broken cheekbone, broken nose and bruising on the brain.

The medical advice, which suggested curtailing his rugby career, was ''definitely a hard moment''. About 18 months later, he was feeling well and decided to play ''a bit of a game'', but as soon as he took the first knock, after which he could feel his brain shaking like jelly, he knew he had to get into something else. Initially keen to give triathlon ''a bit of a nudge'', Mr Croom met former Tour of Southland winner Doug Bath who helped get him a bike and taught him to ride.

It was Mr Bath who suggested the cycling newcomer have a go in the Tour of Southland. While Mr Croom thought it might be something that he could tackle in a couple of years, Mr Bath said to do it in nine months.

Nine months later, after doing ''some very, very big miles on the bike every day'', Mr Croom lined up for the 50th anniversary Tour of Southland in 2006. It was six days of racing, in which his legs were ''screaming and burning''. It was a big week and while there were days that felt like it would never end, once it got to the last couple of days, it was ''magic''.

He caught the cycling bug and returned home for a couple of weeks to compete in the Kings of Wessex race.

Mr Croom won the event, which was ''fantastic'' and opened doors for him in the UK.

He took four months off work the following year and raced in some of the premier races in the UK.

He returned to the UK the following season as well and has since completed another three Tour of Southland events.

Mr Croom recently competed in his first half Ironman, the Lake Wanaka Half.

He finished second in the male 30-34 years section and eighth overall.

He has been with Altum for more than eight years. He manages the Otago and Southland area with a team of four staff. He enjoyed working in such a good agricultural industry in which those involved were so passionate.

Based in Invercargill, he was grateful Altum allowed him unpaid leave to pursue sport.

Farming remained a passion and he enjoyed nothing better than getting out on farms and talking to farmers about what they did and their challenges.

His clients all had different challenges and properties, which kept the job interesting.

Mr Croom was particularly impressed by New Zealand's dairy industry and he liked how the majority of milk was supplied to a co-operative where the aim was about delivering returns to shareholders, the farmers.

Citing the injection of money into towns, he said it was imperative the farming industry in New Zealand survived. He believed good communication between regulators and farmers was vital.

Mr Croom loved living in Southland, saying people had been so welcoming and he had made some very good friends.

He recently got engaged and had no plans to return to the UK.

''I'm here for good. I like New Zealand full stop,'' he said.