Tour de France cyclist Julian Dean (Team Slipstream) wants desperately to keep his black and white New Zealand championship jersey. The Rotorua rider will defend his title at the BikeNZ National Road Championships in Hawkes Bay this weekend.
Dean, recovering from off-season surgery, knows it will be a tough assignment. "I really want to win the title again so I can wear the New Zealand jersey in Europe. It's great for me, for our sport and our country," he said.
"I think everyone really benefits and another year with it will really solidify us as a cycling nation in Europe," he added. "It is so distinctive and so many people in Europe know and identify with New Zealand. It was absolutely amazing. I am just a rider in a team but when I wore the New Zealand jersey as the national champion so many people commented or came up and spoke to me."
Dean will move from his Crédit Agricole team to his new squad Team Slipstream this year, an American Professional Continental racing in Europe, where he is expected to be the number one sprinter. Dean knows he is not in his best form for the 182-kilometre, seven-lap race to be held on the Appleby Road circuit, west of Taradale on Sunday. He underwent surgery on his ACL joint in September and only got back on his bike in late November.
Dean comes up against the best in the country, including several other European based professionals including Waikato's Tim Gudsell who rides for Française des Jeux and Belgium-based Glen Chadwick who is with USA team Team Type 1. Athens Olympian's Robin Reid (Marlborough) and Heath Blackgrove (Canterbury) will add to the mix along with former world junior champion Jeremy Yates (Hawke Bay), who took out the national club title and recently won the Tour de Vineyards in Nelson.
Other prominent Kiwi riders include Jeremy Vennell, who rides for USA Team Bissell, Gordon McCauley (Auckland), Aaron Strong (Auckland) and former national mountain bike national champion Stuart Houltham (Wellington). "It's a really strong field," Dean said. "And as a one-off race it is difficult and you cannot always control the outcomes. All I can hope for is to do a good race and hope it's good enough."
The full preview for the New Zealand National Championships.