Lotto-Soudal pro speaks about an improvement in circumstances for New Zealand’s riders and some top young talents from home and abroad
Commenting on the recent Tour of Korea success by Patrick Bevin plus the other results achieved by the young Kiwi, Lotto-Soudal’s Greg Henderson has voiced admiration for the 24 year old and said that he can see him making it in pro cycling.
“He looks like the goods, doesn’t he?,” Henderson told CyclingTips in recent days. “He popped Caleb Ewan in a bunch sprint in Korea; you know how hard that is to do. He also beat Wouter Wippert in another sprint.”
In addition to that stage win, Bevin also finished second on five stages and took second overall behind WorldTour rider Ewan, just four seconds back.
The showing comes after third in the New Zealand nationals time trial, first on the Arthur’s Seat stage plus second overall in the Herald Sun Tour and a stage win in the Tour of Taiwan.
“He looks like the goods to me, if he can get picked up somewhere,” said Henderson of his compatriot. “And he climbs, and he time trials. He does a bit of everything, that fellow. He is the standout at the moment.”
In an interview published earlier today on CyclingTips, Bevin said that he wasn’t spending time mulling over a WorldTour place, but instead was focussing on his next races.
He knows that is the best way to step up to the top division; keep riding, keep impressing. If the results keep coming, so too will a big deal.
“I go to bed worrying about tomorrow’s stage, not WorldTour contracts,” he said. “But make no mistake that’s most definitely where I want to be.”
“It is a lot easier now”
Now 38 years of age, Henderson is in his fourteenth pro season. Much has changed in that time and he believes that it is now easier for young Kiwi riders to make the breakthrough.
“I have been saying it for years – we have got the talent, we just don’t have the medium to show it off. But now what has happened is we have got this NRS racing in Australia that the Kiwis go over to. The Australians are such great bike riders and if the New Zealanders can mix it with them, give them a hard team, beat them or whatever…just racing with them makes them better cyclists.
“So there is actually a little bit of a display. I am sure Orica GreenEdge are having a look at the NRS. They always sign one or two from there each year.”
Henderson believes it is easier for Australians to make the step up to the pro ranks, both because of Orica GreenEdge and Cycling Australia’s development programme and also because with four million people in New Zealand, there is not as much money in the sport. He says that cycling there is also still very track orientated.
However he is clear that things have moved forward. “It is a lot easier now than when Julian Dean had to try to make a name for himself, or myself,” he said.
“I had to try to spend years in the States, basically trying to win everything in the United States and I only just got a contract then. I had to win Philadelphia, I had to win stages and jerseys in the races that the Europeans come over like in the Tour of Georgia, the Tour of California.
“There is a platform now for the younger guys. The other thing is they have guys like Sam Bewley, who is going really, really well, then Hayden Roulsten. Julian Dean, myself. We have sort of…not paved the way, but when the team hires a Kiwi, they know that he is not there to mess around. We have to perform.
“I say it every time I have an interview. We have to come over, we have to perform, because if we don’t we go back home and we never get back over to Europe. They know when you hire a Kiwi or an Aussie, you are getting somebody who is going to work hard.”
Bevin is currently with the Avanti team from New Zealand and Henderson agrees that the squad has done a lot to help the development of riders. “I like the way they look after them,” he said.
“Tom Davison came over from triathlon. He was living here for a while and I started to look after him. He has a massive engine as well – once he learns to race properly, the tactics of racing, he is going to be really good too.
“There is Budget Forklifts, there is the Avanti team, there is Search2Retain, there is Charter Mason. There are really good bike riders on these teams, so it is a good platform for them.”
Lotto-Soudal’s young guns
Kiwi talent aside, Henderson says he is also impressed by what he has seen with his own Lotto-Soudal team in Europe. One who is praises is Tiesj Benoot, the 21 year old Belgian who took fifth in the Tour of Flanders this spring and more recently placed second overall in the Tour of Belgium.
“He is unbelievable,” he says in admiration. “Unbelievable. But there are so many of them. I guess it is just when you are young, you can go so deep. Vegard [Breen] too, it feels like you are talking to a 35 year old and not a 24 year old or whatever.
“He is a very professional bike rider. He is always fun. He is always open to ideas on training. Then you have obviously got Jens Debusschere. He is young but he is already Belgian champ. He is a massive talent as well. He has just got to pick what direction he wants to go in.
“I think he wants to be a good Classics rider. He is super fast, he is super strong, but I think he wants to head in the Classics direction.”
Another who has grabbed his attention is Tosh Van der Sande, the 24 year old who was second this year on stage one of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen and fourth on the opening leg of the Volta a Catalunya.
“He is a good wee fellow. He is mega-talented,” he said. “He is a racer, you know those kind of guys who can just get in and do any kind of race. Whether it is a kermesse or a mountain stage, he is a really good racer.”