A Cambridge cyclist has reached the podium in a coveted New Zealand cycling competition.
Racing in the Tour of Southland earlier this month – New Zealand’s premier road cycling event behind the elite nationals – Alex Heaney made the top-two in a close finish behind defending champion Michael Vink.
It was a “really massive achievement”, his Cambridge-based coach Blair Taylor said, considering the best of the best of New Zealand’s road cycling legends have won the title, including Taylor’s uncle Jack Swart in 1983 and 84.
“This has a lot of international riders and it’s always hard racing,” said Taylor. “The names on the trophy are some of New Zealand’s best ever cyclists, so it’s pretty cool to see.”
Heaney hopes to add his name to that list and plans to compete again next year. He was glad he took part in the competition for his fifth consecutive year, having made a previous-best placing of 15th in 2018.
“I went down there thinking, I should be good for a top-10, even a top-five would be the dream, and then I came second,” said Heaney, who originally hails from Te Kauwhata.
The week-long race over 900km saw 108 cyclists battle challenging terrains over some of New Zealand’s steepest climbs, including an 8km sprint up Coronet Peak at 1000m altitude. But the trickiest part, compared to a one or two-day race, was conserving energy effectively over seven days of racing.
“You’ve definitely got to make sure your recovery is on point, and you’re eating and drinking properly. Otherwise if you don’t do that the following days can hurt,” said Heaney.
“It’s just a matter on staying on top of it.”
Starting with a 4km time trial on day one, days two – six saw competitors race over 170km, 150km, 160km, 140km and 150km before a 13km time trial and final 80km race on day seven.
The modest 25-year-old, who regarded his spectacular second place finish as “the first loser”, works full time at Spoken Cycles in Cambridge in addition to training full time.
“There’s a lot of guys that are just full time cyclists – he’s working 40 to 45 hours a week and trains 15 to 20 hours a week, so he’s super committed, and that’s special in itself, it goes to show that someone can get a result while still doing the hard yards,” said Taylor.
“I just thoroughly enjoy riding,” said Heaney.
Nationals was the next big goal, in addition to getting first-place at next year’s Tour of Southland. Between now and Nationals in February, he’ll continue racing in the Dynamo championship series with his fellow GD Pringle Building/Spoken cycling team, and take a shot at the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and the NZ Cycle Classic.
Also on the local GD Pringle cycling team is James Harvey, who won the first stage of the Tour of Southland on November 3.