Cycling: Henderson to lead national team in tour

Greg Henderson
Greg Henderson
Former Dunedin professional Greg Henderson will lead a national team in a tour in his adopted home of Melbourne next week.

The Lotto Belisol rider was keen for some extra preparation for the New Zealand road championships and the Tour Down Under in Adelaide next month.

The Herald Sun Tour is Australia's oldest stage race, and has been revived for its 60th anniversary as a four-day event from January 3-6, on the back of the annual Bay Criterium series starting on January 1.

Henderson will lead a national team comprising London Olympian Westley Gough, under-23 riders Josh Atkins and James Oram, Southlander Tom Scully and Mike Northey.

The tour is no longer a UCI-sanctioned event, meaning Henderson, as a World Tour rider, could not complete unless it was for a sanctioned national team.

Tour organisers, keen to get the Melbourne-based star into the event, contacted BikeNZ with the offer to fully support a national team for the event.

''It is an excellent opportunity for some of our young guys to ride themselves into some form in a well-regarded stage event,'' BikeNZ spokesman Bryan Simmonds said.

''We jumped at the offer. It will be great to have the New Zealand colours on show in this tour and an excellent riding opportunity in a prestigious event in this part of the world.''

Henderson is excited to compete in Melbourne, the city where the Henderson family now lives in the southern hemisphere summer.

''Melbourne is my second home town and when I race around here I get as many 'Hendys' called out as anywhere else in the world,'' Henderson said.

''I have a fairly big fan base here now so I feel like it is home and I enjoy racing in Melbourne.

''The Herald Sun Tour has such a huge prestige. It has been going for so many years. It has been on and off of late, and it is a bit shorter which is unfortunate, but it is a very historic race.

''It's awesome that BikeNZ and the organisers have made it happen. I don't get to race a lot with the Kiwi boys. It will be fairly relaxed and we will have a good time and that's usually how good results come.''

Gough is coming back after a superb track year in which he won the bronze medal in the team pursuit at the London Olympics and a bronze in the team pursuit and individual pursuit at the world championships.

Atkins (Christchurch) won the Tour of Southland last year and was fourth in the national championships this year, Northey (Auckland) was the Tour of Southland overall winner a few weeks ago and Oram (Auckland) is a former world junior championship medallist.

Scully enjoyed an excellent year, including finishing third in the under-23 Paris Rouxbaix for the Garmin Sharp development team. He has good history in Melbourne, where he won the scratch race gold medal at the world cup in 2009, and the following year won a stage of the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic.