Suffering in scenery

Pedalling powerhouse: Julian Dean in 2012 PICTURE: NZ HERALD

New Zealand’s most successful road racer says the Crown Range will be a beautiful place to suffer during the Tour of NZ.

Retired pro cyclist Julian Dean, described as the best lead-out sprinter in the world during his heyday, will race four South Island stages of the tour, which begins tomorrow.

That includes the 89km blat from Five Rivers to Jack’s Point golf course on day one and the punishing 67km from Arrowtown up the Crown Range zig-zags to Wanaka on day two.

Dean, 42, a former national road race champ, says: “It’ll certainly be a challenge but it’s a nice challenge.

“It’s a beautiful part of the world and if you’re going to suffer somewhere it’s a good place to do it.”

He says all cyclists feel the pain – whether on the Tour de France’s Alpe d’Huez or on the Crown Range.

“Suffering is suffering. It feels the same no matter whether you’re a high-level professional or a weekend warrior.”

Dean, now assistant sporting director and sprint tactician for Australian team Orinca-Scott, raced on pro teams for 17 years, including with Lance Armstrong’s US Postal Service from 1999 to 2001.

A lead-out sprinter is the last man to peel off after providing a slipstream in a stage for the principal rider.

In all, Dean raced in seven Tour de France, five Giro d’Italia, and three Vuelta a Espana.

Dean, a Tour of NZ ambassador, says the Crown Range would be a category-two climb on Le Tour – the third-hardest of five categories assessed on length and steepness.

“One of the hard things is the road surface is quite dead, so it’s really hard to get a good rhythm on it.”

More than 50 overseas riders, from as far afield as Ireland and Brazil, will join 270 Kiwis on the fourth Tour de NZ from April 1-8.

The 700km race is held simultaneously on both islands, with riders choosing to race seven stages in either the North or South Island, and then a final stage for both in Wellington to the Beehive.

Sixty of the South Island cyclists will fundraise for The Unicorn Foundation NZ, which aims to bring to New Zealand more effective treatments for neuroendocrine tumours/cancers.

There is both a competitive and participation element.

Also lining up are ironman Cameron Brown and former cricket internationals Justin Vaughan and Bruce Edgar.