Gardner off to race in North America

Otago rider James Gardner is bound for the United States and Canada. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Otago rider James Gardner is bound for the United States and Canada. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Promising Otago cyclist James Gardner will spend the next couple of months racing in the United States and Canada, hoovering up as much experience as he can.

The 19-year-old left yesterday and will join his team, the New Zealand Cycling Project, in Washington DC.

The tour will also take them to Quebec, Milwaukee and Chicago.

"It has been a good winter at home training. I wear every layer I own on some days training in sub-zero conditions," he said, chuckling.

"I can’t wait to spend that time over in the States. There will be a good variety of racing and there is a good calibre of riders that we will be racing against."

Gardner won the elite men’s race at the national criterium in Palmerston North in January and he will get to wear that championship jersey while racing on tour.

It is one layer he will not mind wearing.

Gardner’s first race is on the track but there are quite a few criterium races and some road racing in Quebec as well.

The young man is "still trying to keep everything going"and has not decided whether his future is on the track or the road yet.

But he has been having good success in the criterium events which are similar to track riding.

"It is very similar in terms of the acceleration and the speed of it, and the physicality of it in terms of being really close to a bunch of other riders."

That sort of racing suits his 1.97m frame.

He is a strapping lad and getting over some of the long climbs on the road can be a challenge if you are not the shape of a jockey.

There are a lot of familiar names in the New Zealand Cycling Project.

James Williamson (Alexandra), Josh Burnett (Invercargill), Hayden Strong (Invercargill), Marshall Erwood (Invercargill) and Sam Ritchie (Wānaka) all raced in the opening race of the tour earlier this month.

Gardner, who is joining the tour late, has had some cracking battles with Erwood throughout the years, but the two will put their rivalry on hold and ride for each other.

Gardner has had a taste of what the racing will be like in the US.

He had a two-week stint on the series as a 16-year-old.

"That was my first taste of international racing experience and from there I have had a few trips over to Australia and to Colombia [for the Junior Track Cycling World Championships in 2023].

"I’m just trying to get as much experience as possible."