Winning ways: Queenstown's Reuben Thompson in action in France last year. PICTURE: ALEXIA TINTINGER


Queenstown pro cyclist Reuben Thompson’s planning to hole up in Europe this northern
winter and ‘‘train like a madman’’.

After a breakout season last year, the 19-year-old’s now in Italy trying to make the most of a Covid-disrupted season, but admits to already having one eye on next year.

Thompson left Wakatipu High in mid-2017 to pursue a triathlon career in the Waikato, and went on to claim the national under-19 crown.

But he jettisoned his swim suit and running shoes last year to focus on the bike, and spent last northern summer in France riding for a junior team.

Now based in a ‘‘wee village called Liédena’’ — near Pamplona of ‘Running of the Bulls’ fame — he tells Mountain Scene last summer was ‘‘better than all expectations’’, with four team wins from 12 races.

He not only made the national under-19 cycling team, but was named Cycling New Zealand
Junior Road Rider of the Year.

‘‘The opportunity to live and race in France gave me the chance to show what I’m capable of, and has put me on the path to the world tour.’’

He flew back to Europe a fortnight ago, after a four-month break at home, to join an U23
team that’s competing in the Spanish Cup.

There are eight races remaining between last Saturday and October 18.

Thompson, whose major goal for the season is to qualify for the UCI World Championships in Switzerland next month, says the disruption the pandemic’s causing means he’s treating every race as a bonus.

He’s signed with the team for two more years, ‘‘so I’m already training with next year in mind’’.

‘‘I’d like to use the races remaining this year to learn and progress as much as possible so I’m in the best place possible going into what I hope to be a huge year in 2021.’’

Although he’d love to come back for November’s Tour of Southland, the prospect of a two-
week quarantine and other travel hassles means he’s planning to stay in Europe over the northern winter and dedicate the off-season to training.

And despite the recent spike of Covid cases in parts of Spain, he’s confident about his safety.

‘‘I’m pretty much self-isolating as it is; all I do is sleep, eat, ride my bike and sleep some more.

‘‘I have no real contact with anyone other than heading out to get food.’’

He’s training in blocks of three or four hard days, with a recovery day in between.

A training day usually involves up to five hours on the bike, while a ‘‘recovery’’ day involves one or two hours’ riding.

Each ride’s followed by self-massage, stretching and core work, and depending on the time of the season, he also does strength work in the gym two or three times a week.

‘‘I’d like to continue my steady progression with the target of making it to the world tour and being at the pointy end of racing at the highest level.’’