Names like Sam Bewley or Jack Bauer often come to mind when thinking about up-and-coming riders from New Zealand, but after a successful month of racing at home Michael Torckler has added his name to that list. Previously not overly well known abroad, the 22-year-old rode himself into the Tour of Wellington’s leader’s jersey last Thursday drawing the attention of many around the world with little other road racing on at the time.
What many don’t realize is that Torckler’s stage then overall success in Wellington weren’t his first wins of 2010. In fact the race played out similar to the Hawkes Bay Tour where he won the second stage before claiming the overall classification just two weeks earlier.
New Zealand has been a successful sporting nation in many facets despite its small population, so it was little surprise to learn that rugby league was Torckler’s first sporting foray. While many chased the prestige of someday joining the All Blacks, Torckler learned a quick lesson from the close contact sport.
“I was far too small to be a rugby player, I figured that out pretty quick,” Torckler told Cyclingnews. “I got into running and athletics when I was about 11 which eventually led to triathlon. I had a road bike from 12 or 13 just as transport to and from school, but I never really raced it until I did a triathlon half way through high school around 15 or 16. Around 2005 I started to focus solely on cycling.”
In those early years of cycling Torckler completed some small blocks of racing in France with BikeNZ’s development team. While the results abroad were limited, it helped his development and subsequently his results domestically.
Second place on a stage of the Tour of Taranaki in 2006 was followed by a similar result at the Tour de Vineyards one year on. He finished second overall at Vineyards in 2007 before chalking up his first victory later that season at the Twin Peaks Tour.
The following year brought another promising sign as he finished second on a Tour of Southland stage, but it was 2009 that would be the watershed year. It started strongly with Torckler taking the national Under 23 time trial championship, finishing second in the Under 23 road race and finishing sixth overall in Wellington.
Later that year he joined Spanish amateur squad Azysa where he continued the results with second on a Vuelta a Navarra stage in Pamplona, Spain. That form was carried through to Bizkaiko Bira where he finished fourth overall after taking third place on the fourth stage.
His victory in Wellington – where riders like Julian Dean and Hayden Roulston have won – was however Torckler’s biggest to date. “This has to be the biggest win of my career so far,” he said. “It’s pretty cool looking at the list of previous winners. I think it’s very special to have your name up next to those boys.
“You always hope to go where those boys are and join them at some stage,” added Torckler. “So for sure I want to follow them.”
While many unfamiliar with Torckler’s name were surprised to see him launch a successful breakaway to win the race, they weren’t the only ones left shocked. Torckler admitted he had not trained specifically for the races and is hopeful his form hasn’t become too good too soon in the season.
“I’ve been a little bit worried about that but as far as my training goes I haven’t really got a huge base there at the moment so I don’t really feel as though I’m peaking in form,” said Torckler. “I’m not really sure how this has happened but I’ll take it. I’m certainly not going to complain about it. Hopefully it’s just setting me up for the season.
“It has given me a lot of confidence,” he added. “I’ve got a few more kilometres to put in the legs before things should start really firing properly, but it has given me a lot of confidence.”
Torckler will again race for Azysa in Spain this year, where he’s hoping to continue achieving the results he’s started 2010 with at home. While the Wellington win hasn’t brought any trade teams knocking on Torckler’s door, he’s hopeful consistent results in Spain this season will change all that.
“I actually haven’t even seen my race program yet so I’m not sure what races I’ll be doing this year,” he said. “Last year we rode a couple of 2.2 races during the year so I imagine I’ll be looking to those to rack up some good results.
“A lot of the bigger Spanish teams will pick up guys from just getting good results in the amateur races all the time, so I don’t think I’ll be focusing solely on any particular race but I’ll just try to run with the good form when it comes to me,” he added. “Joining a trade team is the plan for this year. It definitely needs to happen this year for sure.”
In addition to top New Zealand professional road riders Dean and Roulston, the Tour of Wellington’s winner list includes Garmin-Slipstream’s Travis Meyer and Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Matthew Lloyd, both from Australia.