Champion international cyclist Greg Henderson (left) talks
with the president of Cycling Otago, Chris Henderson,
before the Wingatui 60km circuit race at Wingatui on
Saturday. Henderson, now living in Girona, Spain, is back
home in Dunedin for Christmas. Photo by Linda Robertson.
The thing with New Year's resolutions is most of us have
rather modest goals.
You know, lose a few pounds, give up smoking, get some more
exercise - that kind of thing. Bucket lists are pretty
Mere mortals tend to be satisfied with a picnic at the Eiffel
Tower, stringing together a few tunes on a guitar or jumping
off a bridge with a bungy cord wrapped around their ankles.
Former Dunedin cyclist Greg Henderson has set the bar a lot
higher. It has been his dream to compete in the Tour de
France and to win a medal at the Olympic Games. And if things
go well next year, he might get to tick both boxes.
The 35-year-old, who has returned to Dunedin to visit family
and friends before Christmas, told the Otago Daily Times he
switched allegiances from Team Sky to Lotto Belisol recently
with the specific goal of getting a ride in the Tour de
"There were a number of reasons but the underlying reason was
to have an opportunity to ride the Tour de France," Henderson
"It is no secret that I got overlooked for the last two
years. To them, it is just a business. It is a British
cycling team and they wanted as many British riders as they
"The last conversation I had with Dave Brailsford (team
manager) was... if they took me to the Tour de France this
year, for example, they would have only had two British guys
in the whole team."
Lotto Belisol is a Belgian-based team shaped around star
sprinter Andre Greipel. He also happens to be a good friend
"I started talking with Greipel during the Tour de France
this year and said, `Look mate, I've had enough of being
neglected by Sky'.
"The worst-kept secret in cycling was that Mark Cavendish was
joining Sky. Obviously he is the fastest guy in the world at
the moment and is going to be the No 1 sprinter.
So I thought I'm going to be put to lead-out duties there
anyway and I'd rather lead out a friend than lead out Mark
Cavendish, especially after what Sky had put me through. So
we started talks with Lotto.
"It has really worked out in my favour. Greipel helped me
with my negotiations. Basically he said he won't sign his
contract until you sign Greg Henderson.
That helped a heck of a lot."
Greipel wants Henderson leading him out in the sprint
finishes and that bodes well for the 2004 scratch race world
champion. If he can stay fit and maintain his form, that
elusive ride in the Tour de France should become a reality.
About a week after the greatest cycling event in the world
concludes there is another pretty big sporting occasion
happening in London.
Henderson would dearly love to be part of the New Zealand
Olympic team which contests the road race. He believes Julian
Dean and himself have the experience to perform well on a
course which suits them.
"It is almost perfect for me.
There is a lumpy little climb which should unload a lot of
the pure sprinters like the Cavendishes. But it is still
going to be a bunch sprint. It is still going to be 70 or 80
guys coming to the line.
"That is perfect for me and the sort of situation where I can
win, so I'm really excited about it."
There is a big hurdle to get over first - selection. While
Henderson and Dean are undoubtedly the country's two best
road cyclists, there is no guarantee New Zealand will qualify
two riders for the event.
There is also a school of thought a track cyclist might get
the nod ahead of Dean or Henderson. With the men's track team
limited to just nine riders, picking someone who could cover
the teams pursuit would improve its chance of success and
allow an extra track sprinter to be picked.
"There is a rumour they will pick two track guys for the road
race so they have more chance in the teams pursuit.
"But what happens if the teams pursuit finishes fourth at the
Olympics? Will that be a success? I can jump up and down
about it but, at the end of the day, what can I do about
"If they deny Julian Dean and I a spot at the Olympics, on a
course that suits us, it is going to be a joke around