QK: You have had a prestigious career both as a cyclist and as a triathlete. Do you consider yourself a cyclist or a triathlete these days?
RR: I definitely still consider myself a cyclist rather than triathlete. I certainly have an interest in triathlon, specifically the longer distance discipline, but road cycling is the sport that, after 25 years or so racing, I still remain really passionate about. I certainly wouldn’t say that I had a ‘prestigious’ triathlon career. I didn’t ever start a race as a professional and there is a big difference between racing an Ironman or half Ironman race as an age group competitor compared to starting as a professional. I would have liked to test myself in a pro field but never really had the time to commit to the amount of training required to get to a reasonable level for that. I still consider myself a cyclist. Hopefully I’ll never retire!
QK: You’ve been a national champion and an Olympian. You’ve raced all around the world at some pretty prestigious events including the Olympics and Commonwealth Games and have competed in events all around the world with the Marco Polo cycling team. You’ve had stage victories in UAE, Pakistan, Tour of Southland and Tour of Wellington. You’ve also won the Tour of Pakistan and a couple of New Zealand Championship events. On top of this you have gone under 9 hours at Challenge Roth and won a couple of Half Ironman races. If you were to single out an event as your most significant in your athletic career, which would it be and why?
RR: Competing at the Athens Olympics probably has the most significance. During my early years as a cyclist, I never had the goal to compete in the Olympics, neither did I aspire to be a professional cyclist. I finished school, went to university, got a job. I loved racing and the more I got into the sport, naturally the better I became.
I first raced overseas at the Tour of New Caledonia, in 1998. This experience of a two week tour, racing among quite a few international riders, really inspired me to get to a higher level. It wasn’t until 2001 that I first ventured to Europe. I was already 25 years old. I had a job back in New Zealand so I never considered the possibility of pursuing a career as an athlete. I just loved racing my bike and spending 5,6,7 months overseas, travelling to races in crazy places. It was just a big adventure.
Early in 2004 I found myself with an outside chance of selection for the Games team so I committed everything to this. On 6 June 2004 the team was named. I was on the list.
I raced a lot and trained hard in Europe leading up to Athens. Deep down I had the feeling that I wasn’t at the level I needed to be at to be racing at the Olympics. Panic miles commenced. I arrived at race day quite over trained, fatigued, and as a result, not at my best. Although it was an amazing experience to compete at the Games and to be part of a successful New Zealand Olympic team, I simply wasn’t good enough at that time to compete at that level. Of course we now know a lot more about why the level was so high back then.
The experience took a long time, years in fact, to sink in. Although I felt that I had done my best on race day, I was disappointed with my performance and this disappointment is what really inspired me to become a better athlete. Even though I had a few other quite good results throughout my time racing (I don’t really refer to it as a career), the reason why the Athens Olympic is the most significant is because I gain more and more from the experience as time goes on. Where the significance of other results diminishes over time, every 4 years, when I sit and watch the drama of the Olympic Games unfold, it becomes more and more significant to me, which is something really special and I feel privileged to be able to appreciate it in this way.
QK: You’ve recently become the owner of Nelson’s Village Cycles. I know it’s been a dream/goal of your to own Nelson’s Best Bike Shop for a while. What has been the biggest change to your life since taking over the store?
RR: The biggest change is that I don’t ride my bike very much anymore! I really miss the feeling of being really fit but it is great to have a new focus. The fitness will come back.
QK: You haven’t been racing at the top level as much as you have previously but you still managed to maintain your form good enough to place 3rd at the Elite National Cycling Championships this year. Any tips or tricks you can recommend for the readers?
RR: The Elite Nationals was a really satisfying result for me. My intention was to work as hard as I could to help George Bennett and because of this goal I had prepared well in the months leading up and was in pretty good shape. It was disappointing that George had some mechanical problems because I do believe that he was the strongest rider in that front group.
My tip would be, establish exactly how much time it is that you can realistically commit to training and racing, taking all of your other commitments into account and then aim to consistently maintain this level.
QK: What is your favourite cycling workout? What about on the wind trainer?
RR: Long rides are the key for me. I don’t get much time during the week so I try to do big ones at the weekend. I love rides over 300km or turning up to a club race with 4-5 hours already in the legs. Also I love riding hard, going for the highest possible average speed on a ride. I am old school. I do have a power metre but at the end of the day it is about speed not power.
The wind trainer is great training and I almost get an immediate effect. I hate it though.
QK: What is your favourite run workout?
RR: I love long mountain runs but my favourite workout is a 10km loop which starts almost at my back door, goes straight up into the hills to about 400 metres and then winds back down a more gentle gradient to home. It takes about 1 hour.
QK: What is your favourite swimming workout?
RR: I don’t really have a favourite swim workout. I once did 10km non stop in a 25 metre pool. This was more mental conditioning than physical. My favourite is lake swimming.
QK: You’ve had the opportunity to stand on the top of the podium a couple of times along side your partner Britta as the top female competitor in the same event. Are any of these times more significant than other races?
RR: Not sure? We have never really done a big race together. I don’t think I would enjoy it very much. I would really rather watch and support when she is racing the big Ironman events. It is really exciting seeing the day unfold, sharing the high moments and helping to get them through the bad patches. Watching your partner come down the finishing chute to victory in an Ironman is the ultimate.
QK: Britta and you have been doing a number of adventure runs lately. You recently posted some amazing photos from up Parachute Rocks on the St Arnaud Range. What sort of food/fluid do you take up the hills? Any other equipment/supplies that you take up with you when you do these runs?
RR: Take something is my advice! On this particular run we didn’t take any water. There was no water along the ridge so we basically ran the first 3.5 hours of a 4.5 hour run with no water. We got pretty desperate and were very happy when we finally dropped down from the ridge to the shore of Lake Rotoiti.
QK: What have you learned over the last 12 months that more people should know?
RR: Gravel road ‘adventure’ rides are awesome.
25mm tyres are better than 23mm.
Long, long rides are simply the best training.
Donald Drumpf is a complete nut case!
QK: What are the two biggest training mistakes you have made and how have you come back from them?
RR: The first time I did a ride of over 300km was a bit of a mistake. I ended up sick in bed with pneumonia for about 3 weeks. I came back about 3kg lighter.
In Europe during 2005, Nathan Dahlberg and I had a race to see who could be the fastest to reach 10,000km. I raced like shit for a couple of months but certainly came back stronger. I won the race to 10,000k but only because I happened to be competing in a race in China, clocking up kilometres on the bike whilst Nathan was working as our team director at the same race, clocking up kilometres in the team car.
QK What is your next big goal?
RR: Not sure. No big sports goals just now.