Olympic Champion to ride SBS Bank Tour of Southland

By Cycling South

Olympic and world champion rower Hamish Bond will swap boat for bike when he takes on the Tour of Southland next month.

Bond, one half of the indomitable New Zealand men’s pair with Eric Murray, will ride for the Vantage Windows & Doors team, which will include his brother Alistair and New Zealand professional cyclist Michael Torckler.

“I don’t have any expectations or ambitions in terms of cycling, and that’s why it’s such a luxury to come down,” Bond said.

“I’ll be in good shape and good form by my standards, but there’s no pressure, which is something that I’ve lived with since we stepped into the pair and started winning. Every race we put our winning record on the line and there’s a lot of pressure associated with that, mainly from ourselves. I’m looking forward to being that underdog maverick that I haven’t been able to be for eight or nine years.”

SBS Bank Tour of Southland director Bruce Ross was excited by Bond’s return to New Zealand’s most prestigious stage race, which he’d previously rode as a 23-year-old in 2009.

“He’s an elite athlete at the top of the game and this won’t be a junket for him at all. It’s great to see him place so much respect on this race and I know he’s putting in a lot of training to be competitive.

While Bond finished 68th on general classification in 2009, more importantly he was part of the Zookeepers-Cycle Surgery team which claimed team classification honours, and helped Heath Blackgrove to take out the yellow jersey.

“I’ve always enjoyed cycling. I had a go at the tour in 2009 when we had just recently won our first world championship in the pair. I was still pretty green and I was trying to ride and row at the same time and I didn’t really do either any justice,” Bond said.

“It’s fair to say I wasn’t really prepared for Southland and I suffered really badly, so I wanted to come back and do it justice. I was in a team with some serious talent, of which I was seriously lacking, but they never made me feel that way and I’ve remained friends with the guys through to this day. I guess time has healed the scars in terms of suffering and my memory doesn’t seem so bad.

“I had a couple of crashes which aren’t great memories, but I did have a couple of days where I felt quite good and was able to contribute to the team. My greatest memory is just being out the back and having to survive in the crosswinds, riding in the gutter for kilometre after kilometre.”

Bond and Murray have won 69 straight races in a streak which goes back to 2009.

Along with back-to-back Olympic gold medals from London and Rio, they have won eight world championship titles.

Bond is grateful for the support of Vantage Windows & Doors, who also sponsor the New Zealand men’s pair and are principal sponsors for Cycling New Zealand, and Wellington insolvency firm Shephard Dunphy who are also sponsors of the men’s pair and big cycling fans.
“I’ve done the groundwork in setting up the team, not in terms of them riding for me or anything, but in creating the sort of atmosphere that I wanted. It’s been interesting trying my hand at a little bit of team management, which has been enjoyable and a bit of a challenge,” Bond said.

“We are really pleased to have Mike on board, he’s obviously a very talented New Zealand rider and he’s got the sort of low-key personality that we were after. He’s got a license to roam free and we’ll try and help him if we can.”

Bond said he never seriously thought about continuing his partnership with Murray on the bike.

“I don’t know if Eric would make it up Bluff Hill, to be honest, even if he only started at the bottom,” Bond said with a laugh.

“We do a lot of cycling for cross-training and there wouldn’t be too many stronger bike riders in the world that are Eric’s size - but when the road starts going uphill he certainly notices it.”

Since confirming their world dominance in Rio, the change to get onto a bike has been a welcome change for Bond.

“I’m mentally fresh, I’m enjoying the training and it doesn’t feel like a chore. I might change my tune but it’s that old cliche that a change is as good as a holiday.”

The SBS Bank Tour of Southland runs from October 30 to November 5 and is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

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