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Dean chases special national jersey

Tour de France cyclist Julian Dean (Team Slipstream) wants desperately to keep his black and white kiwi jersey. The Rotorua rider will defend his New Zealand title at the BikeNZ National Road Championships in Hawkes Bay this weekend, with the winner entitled to wear the national jersey in European competition this year. 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," said Dean.

"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 Credit Agricole team to his new squad Team Slipstream this year, an American cycling organisation moving into Europe where he is expected to be the number one sprinter. Dean knows he is not in his best form for the 182 km, seven lap race to be held on the Appleby Rd 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 Francaise des Jeux and Belgium-based Glen Chadwick who is with US team Team Type 1. Athens Olympians 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 US team Bissell Pro Cycling Team, 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."

To read the full preview for the New Zealand National Championships, click here.