Chapter I

I was born in Ashburton, New Zealand, in 1981. Cycling was always part of my family – with my father and his brothers all racing, but when I was younger I played all sports with cycling being the last sport I chose to take up. To be honest, I was most passionate about rugby and soccer. In my early years I wanted to be an All Black like every other kid but as the years ticked by I started to love another sport. I eventually took up BMX racing and loved every second of it - up until I realised trophies were not able to buy me wrestling cards and that was something I was equally passionate about. My close mate Brad Hudson had started cycling and was winning $3 a race on the track and that was all I needed to hear in order to make the switch. At long last I had extra money to buy wrestling cards – provided I kept winning races of course.

I rode for the Tinwald Cycling Club growing up. They had track meetings once a week and road racing twice a week, so I did both. All of my road racing at this time was done on a fixed wheel with a brake on the back that barely worked. We grew up racing our track bikes on the road because that’s what our parents did so of course we followed. I was brought up with ‘if you can’t pedal, you’ll never be able to push!’ drilled in to me. Thinking back now it was probably more of a convenience for Mum and Dad’s wallet so they didn’t need to buy me both a road bike and a track bike.

I quickly developed into a talented junior rider on the both road and track and started competing for New Zealand on the track at age 17. But it wasn’t as easy as this may sound. I remember times before I started having any success wondering if I will ever actually win. Wondering when I will win and how do I start winning. I’m sure my Dad thought this too. Around this time I was also struggling at school. It just wasn’t for me. I wanted to be a professional cyclist and I felt at the time that no amount of math was going to make that happen. I left school half way through 6th form (Year 12), and from here I went to work at the freezing works. I did two seasons here and to be honest I loved every minute of it. I liked getting up early, I liked earning money, and I was home by 2.30pm so I could train too. The problem was, the money I was earning I was spending with ease. I was living at home, living a normal teenage life with every distraction known to man. With the culture around sports people much different back then, my weekends of riding were done more often with a hangover than not. I honestly don’t know how I got through those times and came out on top. Nowadays things are different, which is great and not just different in our sport either. I think sport in general has changed for the better.

As a teenager I really wanted to head to Europe to try and make it as a pro. But, like I said before, the money I earned at the freezing works I spent. So when the time came for me to move to France and ride for an amateur club, I didn’t have enough money to pay for the flights. That was until one night, prior to my proposed departure date to Europe, I was at the pub and placed two bets on two horse races. Horse racing is in my family, but I knew nothing about it. My mates were laughing due to the nature of the bets, but we were just playing around. The first race that night I won $200 off a $1 bet. The second race I won $8,800 of a $24 bet. It’s safe to say we were all in disbelief but at the same time a miracle had happened and I had money for flights. I can’t tell you how thankful I felt to be looked after by the powers that be.

At 19 years of age, I moved to France and rode for a division 2 amateur club called Bressuire. It was good wee team, small but they gave me everything I needed. After two strong 5 month stints where I won 2 races the first year, and 9 races the second year, I signed professional with the French team Cofidis in 2002. This was my first professional contract and something I once thought would only ever happen in my dreams. It wasn’t all nice and easy there though. I struggled a lot in that first year as an amateur. I remember ringing home homesick wanting to come home but Mum convinced me to stay. In 2000 and 2001 I had no phone, not even a laptop, so a bit different to today’s times!

After 2 years there, I headed to the star studded Discovery Channel team in 2005. I had basically made the big time. My season with Discovery Channel featured some impressive early season rides finishing 4th in Kuurne Brussel Kuurne, helping my teammate George Hincapie win the race. My season was interrupted by injury and eventually ended in October when I decided to quit my contract. I had a bad cyst on my sit bones, which kept me out of action from April 1st through till October. I couldn’t even sit on the saddle it was that bad. So I had an operation and stayed in Europe during the recovery phase, which looking back now probably wasn’t the smartest move. By this stage I was severely depressed and I rang my team manager, Johan Bryuneel and told him I wouldn’t be coming back. He was shocked, he didn’t want me to stop, but at the same time said whenever you want to come back call me.

Not long after I quit Discovery Channel I saw an acupuncturist here in Christchurch. I still couldn’t ride much more than a few hours a week and this was months after the operation. The cyst I had cut out had created so much scar tissue and was causing me as much grief as the cyst did itself months earlier. But my wee Chinese acupuncturist friend fixed me in two days. He used long needles that went all the way into the scarring, making it bleed where it needed too in order for it to start healing. In two days I was back on the bike, I wasn’t 100% but I had no pain and over the course the next week I saw him daily and my problem was cured. My motivation was back and I wanted to race again.

My dream was always to win an Olympic medal, but it seemed impossible in 2006 when I was diagnosed with arrhythmic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD). The rare heart disease affected the muscle of the right ventricle and can cause sudden death. For some reason though, I knew I wasn’t going to die from this but equally I had a serious heart problem to manage - with my heart rate at times spiking as high as 250+ beats per minute and as low as 20bpm. I had to retire, there was no way out. The specialist was close to tears telling me my career was over, it was a very tough time in my life and hard to accept.

Retiring at age 25 was not something I saw happening. I was so down at the thought of it that in the end I decided to keep riding because I thought if I was going to die, I might as well do it on a bike. Some days I had no issues on the bike, it was like I had my career and dreams back, but then every now and again it would happen and I would be reminded that my time as a professional cyclist was indeed over. It would happen so sporadically that when the specialist tried to capture these irregularities on a holter monitor it wouldn’t miss a beat. Take the holter off and the irregularities would start. The specialists needed a more advanced holter monitor from America, one that recorded for 24hrs - so I had to wait. Because it wasn’t happening all the time, I held out hope that I could still overcome this. When the holter arrived though, it confirmed that indeed my career was over. ARVD. Let the depression begin.

This is when I met a lady called Julie. I was at a restaurant/pub having a few beers with my mates when we saw this ‘lady’ holding another lady’s shoulder. We of course were laughing at her, taking the piss out of her, wondering what on earth she was doing. As the night went on we built up a bit of courage and we asked her what she was doing. She told us her mate was feeling sick, so she was giving her some reiki. Of course we laughed some more, by that stage we were all laughing. But before I knew it, my mate Marc was telling her about my heart condition and asked her whether she could fix it. She said yes and from that day on my life as a cyclist and a human being would change forever.

With Julie I started having 3 reiki’s a week. I also started doing subconscious mind work with Julie and from this point on my life started changing. Contrary to media reports I never took one pill for this condition. Every time I would go and see Julie, as soon as her hands touched my body she would start sweating profusely. This was the bad energy coming out of me. Over the following months and years Julie became more than just a healer. She was my life coach. She was also my savior. She was also a very close friend. I owe the latter part of my career to Julie for getting me to open up and helping me understand myself on another level. Sure I still had to do the hard yards on the bike, but because of her I got the chance to do what I love again and I'm thankful for that.

At the time of meeting Julie I hadn’t ridden more than once or twice a week for 4 months. I was unhappy and very down but after my first encounter with Julie, and the little bit of reiki I received that night I immediately started to feel different on the bike and in my body. My body felt new again. I can’t explain what I felt but I knew something had changed. When I got home I contacted Julie. I said to her that I didn’t want to be mucked around but I proceeded to tell her what I felt those few days on the bike after that chance encounter. She said to come and see her and the rest is history.

A few months later, in 2006, I won the national Road Race title solo by a few minutes. The ambulance followed me the whole race waiting for me to drop dead. This was actioned by Bike NZ at the time because even they couldn’t believe I was back. It obviously didn’t happen and when I crossed the line with my arms in the air I felt a huge wave of emotion come over me. It was huge. I remember a conversation I had with Julie not long after meeting her. She saw an image of me crossing the line fist pumping in six weeks time. I laughed when she first told me, because at that stage I had retired from cycling, barely ridden and had an incurable heart condition. She said it’s a big event and to trust her. So I did.

After I won the New Zealand elite title, I went on to win my first of four Tour of Southland titles. Early the following year I won the Tour of Wellington for the first time. In addition to road racing I returned to the track and won several titles at the New Zealand and Oceania track championships. From here my dream started to come alive again. I was a different rider and a different person. I was back. It wasn’t easy trying to convince the powers to be though, I was lucky that Michael Flynn was in charge of Bike NZ and he trusted my word that I was 100% healed.

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Following a solid performance at the 2008 World Track Championships in Manchester, I was selected to compete at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There I won a silver medal in the 4000m individual pursuit and a Bronze medal in the 4000m team pursuit – the only New Zealand cyclist to win two medals at the same Olympics. When I think of the team back then, it was an amazing team. We were all very close mates and still are today. It was unexpected of us to win medals there but at the same time if we walked away with nothing it would have been so disappointing. Winning the ride off for bronze was an incredible feeling for us. On the flip side, when I rode off for gold and lost, the feeling was the total opposite. However, I did lose to a big champion though in Sir Bradley Wiggins. I felt like I lost that race mentally more than anything. I just couldn’t get my head around the fact that I was racing someone who had already achieved everything. It was tough and I felt if I was more ready there mentally it could have been a different story.

Following my success at the Beijing Olympics, in September 2008 I announced my return to the World Tour, with my signing to Cervélo Test Team along with riders including reigning Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre and multiple Tour de France stage winner Thor Hushovd. My performances led to back-to-back overseas professional road contracts on the World Tour for the next seven years. During this time I rode for Cervélo Test Team, the famed HTC Highroad, Radioshack and Trek Factory Racing.

I had six professional wins, numerous podium finishes, four New Zealand Road National titles, and I rode in four Grand Tours and 19 Classics, including some monumental rides in support of Fabian Cancellara. I also won the silver medal in the Men's road race at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Throughout my career I raced along side some very big champions. At the time I didn’t think too much about it but it was a pretty big deal.

My medals in the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, my National Road titles, Tour of Southland titles and podium finishes on the road in Europe (including the 2009 Tour de France) were the big standouts in my career from a performance perspective. However, the highlight of my career would be signing that first professional contract with Cofidis in 2002, at age 21. I am immensely proud of that accomplishment. I did this all by myself - I had no real help, no feeder teams like today. I was 20 living in France, alone, riding for a French-speaking club team straight out of home and could not speak any French. It was a tough time for me emotionally, but I won races, signed pro and the rest is history!

Despite my success on the road, my real dream was to return to the track to try and accomplish a lifelong dream of Olympic gold. In October 2015, I announced my retirement from professional road racing, with a view to competing in the team pursuit at the 2016 Rio Olympics. I turned my back on my road career and spent 12 months dedicating myself to making the team for my third Olympic Games. Unfortunately, Rio didn’t transpire in the way I envisaged – however, I gave it my all and I have no regrets for putting my intent out there and trying. The boys deserved much better than the result they got too but from that you learn, you grow and you come back stronger.

In October 2016, I announced my retirement from cycling. The time is right and I feel ready. I’ve accomplished as much as I possibly can in this sport and I can hold my head high. I made it to the top of road cycling and rode in some of the best teams with the biggest riders in the sport. I won two medals at the Olympics, went back to the top of road racing and then gave up everything to have a crack at the track again after eight years away. I am very proud of everything that I’ve accomplished in this sport. But now it is time to give back and share everything I have learned. I feel everything that I’ve learned both on the bike and off the bike will transform the lives of others and I'm really excited for this next chapter.

My significant career highlights:

2002
1st Team Pursuit Sydney World Cup
1st Madison Sydney World Cup
2nd Individual Pursuit, Sydney World cup
3rd Bronze medal Commonwealth Games, Team Pursuit

2003
1st Stage 7 Tour de Polond
2nd World championships - Madison (with Greg Henderson)

2004
1st Stage 1 Tour de Wallonie
2nd Tour du Doubs

2006
1st National Road Race Championships
1st Overall Tour of Wellington
1st Overall Tour of Southland
2nd Silver medal Commonwealth Games, Points race

2007
1st Oceania Madison Championships
1st Oceania Road Race Championships
1st Overall Tour of Wellington
1st Overall Tour of Southland

2008
1st Overall Tour des Deux Sevres
1st Overall Tour of Southland
1st Overall Tour of Wellington
Olympic Games
2nd Silver Individual pursuit
3rd Bronze Team pursuit

2009
3rd Stage 14 Tour de France
Member of the New Zealand Order of merit

2010
1st Overall Tour of Southland
1st Stage 1 TTT Vuelta a España
1st Stage 6 Tour of Denmark
2nd Silver Commonwealth Games, 168 km men's Road Race
4th Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne
10th Paris–Roubaix

2011
1st National Road Race Championships
1st Tour of Southland

2013
1st Road Race Championships

2014
1st National Road Race Championships
1st Stage 1 TTT Tour of Alberta