He has played a crucial part in Andre Greipel’s leadout train for five seasons but now it’s time for a fresh start for Greg Henderson. The Kiwi has confirmed to CyclingTips that he will leave the team at the end of the season but that he intends competing at least one to two more seasons in the WorldTour peloton.
He is currently in talks with teams to determine his new direction.
Last winter Henderson had indicated that 2016 would be his final season but he subsequently had a change of heart, deciding during the spring that he wanted to continue in the sport. He went through an incredible training regime to make sure that he rode the Tour, riding for up to three hours at a time out of the saddle earlier this year when he was affected by bad saddle sores.
That dedication paid off with selection for the Tour and, on the last day of the race, a superb win by Greipel on the Champs Elysees. Henderson played a key role in the leadout, but already knew then that it would be his last Tour backing the German.
“At that point I already knew that I wasn’t on the team for next year,” he explained on Thursday. “But at the end of the day I am a competitive athlete and a professional also. I needed to do my job and I did that.”
According to Henderson, he had hoped to continue with Lotto-Soudal in 2017 but it appears that confusion about his plans complicated things. During the Tour he tried to speak to the team about a new contract but this was met by surprise by team management, who said that they had thought he was retiring.
At that point, states Henderson, the budget needed to keep him on had been spent to cover the increased wage demands of some key riders on the squad.
It was a misunderstanding that vexed him, but he has now put it behind him.
“Don’t get me wrong, I am not angry in any way, shape or form,” he states. “I totally understand. Okay, there was initial disappointment but it is a business at the end of the day and I can understand them wanting to keep those other riders.
“Of course it was disappointing and you can take it personally, or choose not to. Initially I did take it personally but I have had time to get over it. I have moved on.”
Henderson states that he is still fired up to achieve in the sport. He’s 39 years of age but says his enthusiasm for pro cycling remains. “I will keep riding until I can’t ride. As long as I am still enjoying it and still producing results, then of course I am going to ride.
“Staying WorldTour is definitely on the cards. I’ve been talking to some teams and everything is looking positive. That’s why I am not too stressed about the situation.”
Providing he continues in a leadout role, it seems possible that he could find himself riding for one of Greipel’s rivals. Henderson knows he is one of the best in the business and those who have competed against him will be fully aware of this.
“I am still a very capable and handy athlete,” he states. “The experience I’d bring to another team….you can’t buy that, you have to earn that.”