It’s been a month or two since we last spoke, and it’s nearly time for Ruaraidh McLeod to head home to land of the long white cloud – but we thought we’d best say ‘congratulations’ on his first win (and see if he’s crossed paths with those Scotsmen that are also over there in Belgium).

Ruaraidh takes his first win in the heartland at Aarsele.
Ruaraidh takes his first win in the heartland at Aarsele. (click for the full image)

Your first win, congratulations.

“Thanks! It was in Aarsele, two minutes from where I live, an U23 race.

“It was windy and raining; I got away with eight others and had two team mates with me — that meant in the last few laps it was up to us.

“We were away for 100 K and in the last few laps we tried to get to get clear but it came down to a nine man sprint and I took it.”

And the results are coming now?

“I got second behind Patrick Cocquyt the other day in an ‘elite without contract’ race.

“Cocquyt is just so strong.

“And I got a fifth behind Mario Willems — he’s top winner this year on 17 — but he was quite lucky to win that one, a Lithuanian crashed behind him and that let him get the gap.

“Guys like Cocquyt and Willems, you have to watch them all the time — they’re the race winners.”

Ruaraidh is certainly enjoying his racing.
Ruaraidh is certainly enjoying his racing.

Who do you train with?

“Normally on my own but I was out the other day with Clinton Avery who’s just gone stagiaire with Radioshack.

“But there are Aussie and English guys with Kingsnorth that I can go out with, there’s a good community of English speakers.”

Have you come across any Scotsmen out there?

“Yeah, there’s a skinny guy (Mr. Young?) and a solid-looking guy (Mr. Nicholson?).

“I’ve seen them at races a few times; the ‘solid guy’ is starting to come into a bit of form, getting some results.”

Who’s been coaching you?

“Allan Peiper from Columbia has been helping me a lot; he was out here when he was even younger than me, so he knows what it’s like.

“I bounce ideas off him — and I’m in touch with my coach back home, Terry Jayde.

“Terry has coached guys like Greg Henderson and was New Zealand coach, he’s really good.”

Twice up the Kemmelberg makes for a hard race.
Twice up the Kemmelberg makes for a hard race. (click for the full image)

What’s a typical week like?

“I can race three times each week but if I have a big race for the club at the weekend then I’ll just train in the week, so I’m not tired for the race.

“Monday is always an easy day, though — cruise for an hour and have a coffee.”

Are you still with the family?

“Yeah, but I cook for myself, their meals are a lot different to mine — they like their frites!

“I enjoy cooking for myself, you can have a lot of time on your hands here and it’s good to spend time in the kitchen.”

And is the big bowl of pre-race pasta still the thing?

“Yeah, that’s part of the religion — three hours before the start!”

Ruaraidh is keeping a level head, taking the highs and lows in his stride.
Ruaraidh is keeping a level head, taking the highs and lows in his stride. (click for the full image)

How’s your weight?

“Up and down, but I don’t worry about it — there was a time when I did ‘that cyclist thing’ and decided to lose weight so I could climb better, but I lost a lot of power too and now I don’t fret about it.

“I weigh 74/75 kilos and feel good at that.”

How’s the equipment standing up?

“I’ve been really lucky having the connection with Allan and Columbia, I broke my bike — that’ll be a warranty job back home — and Allan gave me George Hincapie’s Scott from last year — it’s amazing.

“Allan understands and just helps out.”

How’s that Belgian weather?

“It’s cracked a little — more wind and rain.

“But we had four crazy weeks of scorching sun, 30/33 degrees, I was enjoying that!

“But lately, every race has been in the rain.”

Are you going home for the Tour of the Southland?

“Yeah, in two weeks — my first season in Belgium and I’ve enjoyed it.

“I’m organising things for next season and hope to stay for eight months.

“I’ll be riding the Southland back home and hopefully the Oceania track champs, but I’ll take a couple of weeks break, first.”

Rightly enjoying the attention and fruits of all the hard work.
Rightly enjoying the attention and fruits of all the hard work. (click for the full image)

Advice for riders thinking of coming to Belgium?

“If you wanna do it — do it!

“It’s a great place; come with friends and make friends here, that way it’ll help keep your head on when you get the ups and downs.

“One thing’s for sure — you’ll find out if you’ve got what it takes to be a bike rider!”

Sound advice. With thanks to Ruaraidh for taking the time to talk to VeloVeritas, and wishing him all the best for ‘The Southland’.

Pictures courtesy of Roland Desmet.