By GUY WILLIAMS
Rising road cycling star Reuben Thompson won’t be repeating his Remarkables access road heroics on the Tour of Southland this year.
The 20-year-old Queenstown pro cyclist, who won the stage last November, only got out of MIQ on Saturday, the day before the tour started.
Thompson tells Mountain Scene he plans to ride with the national team in the New Zealand Cycle Classic in early January, then compete in the Elite Road National Championships in February.
After that, he’ll rejoin his Equipe Groupama FDJ team in France.
‘‘I have a very busy season planned in Europe, so I want to do the bare minimum here in NZ before I head back, but enough to be at a reasonable level for the [national champs].’’
He certainly deserves a laidback summer after a season in which he made his professional debut and claimed a breakthrough victory with the yellow jersey, King of the Mountains title and the points classification in the under-23 Giro Ciclistico Valle d’Aosta.
Most importantly, he signed a deal with his team in which he’ll step up to the World Tour in 2023.
The lowlight of his year was ‘‘probably the first half of my season’’.
‘‘I just missed that extra per cent to compete for the win, and was left quite disappointed when I had a break halfway through the year,’’ he says.
However, that setback only made him hungrier.
‘‘I wouldn’t have made the step up in the second half of the season without the learnings and disappointments I’d experienced.’’
His big goals for next year are to excel in the major U23 tours: the Tour of Italy, Giro della Valle D’Aosta and Ronde de L’Isard.
He’ll be riding with the pro team as much as possible outside of the major U23 races.
Thompson says he learned ‘‘so much this year across the board’’, particularly about the mental side of his sport.
‘‘It’s so much harder on the head at this level, because the differences are so small.
‘‘In amateur racing, if we do a hard climb, there may be 10 to 20 guys left in the group, and that gives you a real mental boost because you know you’re one of the best.
‘‘But this year we could do four hard climbs, and there’re still 100 guys in the group.
‘‘I’ve learnt to just be confident in myself and know that if I’m hurting, everyone else is hurting.
‘‘So I always need to keep riding, and the differences will come in the end.’’