For 2009, our ‘Kiwi discovery’ was Jack Bauer – who will it be this year? Clinton Avery ? Or this man, who has a great Scottish name, but is also from the land of the long white cloud; Ruaraidh McLeod.
Give us a little background – age, where from in NZ, what did you ride back home?
“Well, my name is Ruaraidh Mor McLeod.
“I’m from a small village called Governors Bay its on the Banks Peninsula, which is 10kms out of Christchurch, in the South Island of New Zealand.
“I first started riding for recuperation after a football injury when I was about 14. From there I have raced on both the road and the track, I would say my best result on the road would be winning the National U17 road race title and the New Zealand U19 selection Tour.
“And the track would be at last year’s Junior world Track Champs in Moscow, where I placed 4th in the Individual Pursuit also the year before where I got a 3rd in the Team Pursuit.”
“I see it as the hub of cycling, there are so many races of such good fields and you don’t get that in New Zealand.
“I wanted to come to Europe and race. And for me this year, Belgium is the best option.”
How did you get your team?
“My coach Terry Gyde really kicked it all off, he has been very busy working with Allan Peiper, Andrew McQuaid and a few others to set me up this year.
“In the end Team Isorex from Belgium was the best option. There were a few teams in France, but they said towing a new man around for you first 6 months wouldn’t be the greatest.”
Tell us a little about the team – do you get bike and clothing?
“Isorex Team is based out of Gavere in Belgium. It’s not a big team as it’s their first year in U23 ranks, but it is a great set up.
“We have some inter clubs, a tour in France and the Tour of Liege along with a lot more, I just don’t know the names of. The second week I was here they took the team to Germany for a training camp, that was pretty special.
“We get heaps of clothing, both riding and casual.
“I use my own road bike, but Allan Peiper has set me up with one of the Columbia team’s TT bikes along with Zipp 404’s and HED S4’s.
“So it was like Christmas getting all that kit, bikes and wheels on the same day.”
How did you get organised with a family?
“The family was also set up through Allan Peiper and the manager of the team Dirk Willemijns.
“The family are amazing, they treat me just like one of their own. They have a son who is the same age (18), he races with the Qin Cycling team.
“Michael Vink also from New Zealand and also in Isorex stay’s with them too. We have a lot of fun and are involved in all the outings etc. I think next Saturday we are off to a wedding!”
What are your first impressions of Belgian cycle sport?
“Its crazy, nothing like in New Zealand. For example the day I arrived I went and watched a Pro race that had all the pro tour teams in it.
“You see heaps of pro’s around, especially at this time with the classics.
“In New Zealand for an “A Grade” race you would get maybe 30 riders turning up, but here you get 200-plus!”
Does the style of racing suit you?
“Yes I like the style here, its very hard and fast, lots of time spent in the gutter.
“Also big fields here, which you can recover in a bit better, but you have to stay up the front to keep safe.”
How many races have you ridden, now?
“I have had three races, but the second I was sick so I pulled out of in the first 30kms.
“The first was a 19 laps of a six kilometre circuit, with 226 starters. I got to the start line late, so was at the back, it took me three laps to find the front, then the move went and I just got in it. I finished up 13th so it wasn’t to bad for my first outing.
“Also the U23 RVV, which is a nations cup. I didn’t have the ideal lead in as I had been sick for over a week with a cold and on antibiotics.
“I got to the Molenburg with about 50km to go, I was too far back, and it was basically race over.
“This week I have two more nations cups le Cote Picardie in France and the ZLM Tour in Holland with the National team.”
How do you like Deinze?
“I actually live a few ks out of it, but we go in there a bit, its a nice town, the main street is cool with all the shops.
“On my rest days I ride in on the town bike and cruise around for something to do.”
What are the biggest differences between NZ and Belgium?
“I guess the language, and its a lot flatter on the riding side of things.
“Also riding on the other side of the road, but you get used to that pretty quick.
“The people here are really nice and always have plenty of time for you. I really like it.”
I believe you have a tie in with the Columbia team?
“Yes Alan Peiper has helped set up a lot this year for me, and he has been very kind to send a TT bike and carbon wheels my way for the season.
“He’s a great guy, he was one of the first guys to come from Aussie and race over here 35 years ago.
“So he has been there and done it, and done it well. So to have him looking out for you is wonderful.”
Tell us about your Flanders recon with the Columbia boys.
“It was awesome, also funny in a way, as just last year I would see them on the TV in all the pro races and now to go training with them is pretty crazy.
“I went with Bernard Eisel and the Velits brothers.
“We did about 4 hours and covered most of the hills. They are really nice guys and really down to earth. We even had a support car and ended the day with coffee and cake.
“A real highlight.”
What did you think of RVV day?
“It was pretty full on, I was actually sick so I didn’t go out and watch them, I just saw it on TV.
“But the ride from Cancellara was pretty amazing.”
On your blog there’s a photo of you on a NZ pursuit bike in national strip – tell us about that.
“That was at the Junior World Track Champs in Moscow last year, It was the Individual Pursuit.
“I qualified for the bronze medal ride off with a 3.19, but I didn’t have a good final.
“The coach who had not let me train for the Individual pursuit in our three week build up, also made me ride the final to a silly schedule. That’s another story in itself, and that’s why I’m here in Belgium on the Road and loving it!”
Are you missing anything about NZ?
“No I can’t say I am yet. I guess my there’s always your family and friends, but you can keep in touch, easily.
“How ever my dog hasn’t mastered the phone yet. So I’m lucky my host family have one here.”
We may have another one, here – we’ll keep you posted. You can follow Ruaraidh on his blog.