Talkingshop: Mike Northey’s trophy haul from France

Jim Golden talks to Kiwi Mike Northey (Node 4/Giordana) about his trophy haul from the Tour Loire et Cher where he was sixth overall after having led the race for most of the tour

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When he returns home at the end of the season, one memento that Node4/Giordana/Subaru Kiwi Mike Northey will not be taking on the plane is the giant trophy he got for winning stage one of the Tour Loire et Cher. It may be a reminder of his first big win in Europe but at more than a metre high, it will have to stay at his team’s headquarters in Stone, Staffordshire while he contents himself with a photograph of it when he returns to Auckland with his wife Marina.

Mike, 25, was not on Node4’s original roster for 2012. He had expected to be riding for a New Zealand continental team after two years racing in the United States but at the last minute, it fell through and he was forced to start emailing teams for a ride.

It looked like he might have to step down a level just to keep racing. But a chat with a guy who has helped coach him and fellow Node4 Kiwi, Rico Rogers, suggested he tried the British UCI team. He sent his CV to team manager Malcolm Elliott which included a stage victory in the domestic Tour of Southland and the 2011 New Zealand criterium championship.

A contract offer was forthcoming. No doubt the crit championship win must have helped with the prestigious televised Halfords Tour Series being an important goal of the team. After a run out in the team’s colours in Singapore, Mike had his baptism of fire in England riding for the team at the Maldon Dengie Tour race. Suffering from jet lag after having only got off the plane from New Zealand four days earlier, Mike’s race was not helped by a puncture at a bad time in the race.

Then, far from the dust of Dengie, he went with the team to get a cold drenching in the Easter Tour DoonHame in Scotland that must have left him wondering what he had come to! He didn’t have a lot of time to think about that though as he was soon off to France expecting to be riding for another of the team’s riders but he found the fast flattish racing on narrow roads suited him. He got in the key break along with team mate Matt Cronshaw, agreed to lead him out for the sprint after he had taken some intermediate seconds, but took the chance at a lone dig towards the end and won the stage.

All went well until the penultimate stage when there was hail, rain, crashes and crosswinds which cost him his lead and a final sixth place. Quite a start for a rider who does not see himself as a GC rider. Mike said of the race “I am grateful for the chance Phil (team boss Phil Griffiths) has given me and was anxious to do well for him and the team, but to do it so quickly was pretty awesome. I have raced in Europe, before both in France and Belgium in the kermesses, so in the Loire, the fast, technical roads suited me.”

“Obviously having been racing since January, I am the man for the early season. But the stages were mostly around 200km and I have not been doing that but once I had the lead, the team really worked hard for me. The day I lost the lead, was the worst of my bike racing life. It was so cold and I only had short sleeve jersey, thin under vest and track mitts and the temperature must have dropped to about 5c. Luckily Phil Lavery went back to the car for a rain jacket.”

“We lost three of the team on the stage and on the last day, no one was going to let me go anywhere, so I had to settle for sixth overall. But this was great as I don’t see myself as a GC rider.”

Mike’s father, who was in France on business and saw him on the last two stages along with his sister who lives in France, used to run a bike shop which started off in BMX before he moved to mountain and then road bikes. As a junior, Mike rode the endurance events at the World Track Championships and was reserve for the Team Pursuit. He raced in France with the NZ under 23 squad and then spent two years learning his trade with amateur teams riding Belgium kermesses. Then raced in the US with Landrover Orbea and Pure Black Racing.

“After the let down at the start of the year, I thought I might have to drop a level to keep racing. Now I am looking forward to showing what I can do in single day races and the Tour Series which I know is a big aim for the team” he said.

“I am grateful to Phil who will be putting myself and my wife here. One thing I am enjoying, is riding the country lanes you have round here. I went out into the Peak District when Phil Lavery was here and we got lost and ended up getting lost in the rain and doing five and a half hours”.

“I have sorted that out on my Garmin so that will not happen again and I am learning the area with the help of some of the local riders. It is just great to make a living at something you love so at the moment I am pretty happy.”

And that trophy? “That will have to stay here as I would not be able to afford the excess baggage”.


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