A few years ago, Vik and I were hanging over the barriers at a Friday night kermis near Gent; ex-pro Tony Bracke was Hoovering up the primes but one of the Kingsnorth Wheelers guys was catching our eye, Christopher Macic.
To refresh your memory, Kingsnorth is the Gent based but GB registered club run by Ian Whitehead, Peter Murphy and Staf Boone which has long provided a base for UK and Commonwealth riders.
The Kingsnorth rider in question was a Kiwi and a tad ‘chunky,’ but was ‘getting round’ as Vik would say and eventually finished fourth amid much leaner, local opposition.
‘That laddie would be good if he lost some weight,’ said Vik as we headed back to Gent in search of a pizza.
Several season later and Christopher is still regularly getting among the results over there in the Flatlands — and his weight?
Let’s find out.
Tell us a little about yourself, Christopher.
“I’m 22 from New Zealand and first started cycling when I was 10, I won my first national title in the under 15 road race then I won the national junior road race title two years on the trot.
“I’ve been over in Europe on and off since 2006 but I wanted to finish my apprenticeship as a plumber before I fully committed — so I have something to fall back on.
“In 2006 I rode the junior Worlds got fourth in the junior Tour of Flanders and won a junior Belgian Cup race.
“I had three weeks with Kingsnorth in 2007 and then a spell in France; but it was too hilly for me down there and there was a lot more travel involved in getting to the races.
“In Olympic year I was here in Belgium with the NZ national team but didn’t go to Beijing.
“In 2009 I concentrated on my apprenticeship — like I said, I always want to have that to fall back on.
“Last year I was supposed to get a ride with the Nippo continental team but it fell through and I came back to Kingsnorth; they have a long history of looking after New Zealand cyclists.
“Staf is really involved with the team and the programme is good — what I like is that if he says he going to do something then he does it. Staf allows me to guest with other clubs for the big Belgian ‘Inter Club’ races (Kingsnorth can’t ride these because of its British registration) and I can ride the pro kermises.
“I rode one at Wanzele the other week — Steven Caethoven (Verandas Willems) won it and it was so hard.
“But I’ve been having dental problems; I had to get a wisdom tooth out, it was a simple extraction and I’m well on the road to recovery — I’ll be back stronger.”
You stayed here over the winter?
“Yeah, it was a new experience, I wanted to ride the track — it was OK, I have a lot of friends here, now.
“I rode the Gent amateur 6 but I want to forget about that — it didn’t go well for me!”
How’s the season going?
“I haven’t had a win but I’ve had a fourth; that puts you in the money.
“The plan for this season is that eventually I want to get a stagiaire place — it’s early days yet but I’ve been sending the emails out.
“If I don’t get a stagiaire place I don’t think I’ll be back next year, I have to give it 100% this year.”
Do you stay at the Kingsnorth farm?
“No, I have a student apartment in Gent, I do all my own cooking and can understand quite a lot of Flemish — but speaking it is a little more difficult!”
What are you favourite things about Belgium?
“The quantity and quality of races; the culture around cycling — the way that people are friendly and helpful if you’re a cyclist; and it’s cool that there are bookies at the races!”
Are you still involved with the NZ national team?
“Not really, I’m linked with it but not really part of it; I tried out for the track team and did a 4:30 pursuit but that’s not quick enough — but mind you, that was whilst I was working as a plumber full time.”
And how’s the weight?
“That’s something I worked on over the winter; when I was working on the tools my upper body tended to bulk up dramatically — but now that I’m off the tools I’ve lost that, which helps a lot when you’re accelerating out of corners.”
What’s your favourite type of race?
“The kermises — and one day races, I don’t mind rolling courses but don’t see myself as a future Tour de France contender!
I don’t mind the cobbles, I get over them OK.”
Do you have a coach?
“Yes and no, I haven’t spoken to him since last October; but I self coach; the most important thing is to listen to your body.
“I use SRM’s and sit down after the ride and process the data; I try to work on my weaknesses but not to the extent that I sacrifice my strengths, it’s a balancing act — but eventually I’m trying to make myself a more well rounded rider.”
What’s a typical week of training?
“Easy rides of three to five hours; you’re racing twice or three times each week so you don’t need to train hard — you need to recover.”
Do you have a team briefing before races?
“Naw, at Kingsnorth you kinda ride for yourself; but if one of the boys is up the road then you don’t chase him.”
And Mario Willems is still the ‘Big Dog.’
“Yeah, I trained with him during the winter — the only thing is that he’s that he’s not one of the world’s great pedallers; he always rides the big gears.
“I’ve been working on getting my cadence up; it’s a lot more efficient and saves your legs.
“That was one of the reasons I rode the track over the winter — to improve my leg speed.”
And what’s on the agenda, today?
“I can’t race or train hard because I’m still recovering from having that tooth out; so I’m going out to watch Nokere Koerse.”
It sounds like Christopher has things well sorted out there in Gent — with thanks to the ever helpful Ian Whitehead for putting us in contact with Christopher and wishing Kingsnorth a good season.