After racing in and out of Japan over the last 6 months I can sum it all up with one word- Spectacular!
For my final racing session I was assigned to Nagoya City Keirin in southern Japan along with my ‘teammates’ Scott Sunderland and Shane Perkins from Australia.
Nagoya is a special place, not only because it houses some of this planets greatest companies such as Panasonic, more importantly it has a very old and historic velodrome with extremely long straights and steep corners that encourages very exciting and dangerous racing. Since it was our last race, our governing body JKA decided to treat us with a 4-day meet. This means we are locked away for a minimum of 112 hours with absolutely no contact to the outside world. I can tell you now I must of brushed my teeth at least 5 times a day and had about 100 cups of green tea because there really is nothing else to do. The upside is we get to race 4 times and potentially ‘take home’ more cash in a brown paper bag at the end of it all.
Race one went well- and it needed to because the winners advanced to a super special race the following day that allowed you to qualify automatically for the semi-finals on the third days racing. Luckily I smashed them out of the water with a huge Senko and just won on the line. Fortunately Shane also won his heat so we could ride in the same ‘line’ in the super special race. He had exceptionally good form so I followed him and ‘protected’ him from any other Senko’s that tried to pass him by attempting to crash them with huge hooks and elbow jabs. Once again we worked well together and went 1-2 in the race much to the delight of the punters and fans who were chanting “Parkens the King” and “Ban Belt super fight”. In the semi finals we were all divided up into each semi. This makes it more difficult for us because we can’t work together and it allows old Japanese men to follow us and hope they qualify behind us. We all went out and smashed it, Shane winning his and Scott and I both taking 2nd place. It was to be a stinger of a final the following evening!
However because of our good form (and the large number of old riders we had to ‘respect’) we could not all ride in the same line. There was one or two old men (33-45yrs) wanting to follow each of us so we allowed them to do that but hatched a hidden agenda to out power jump them with 1 lap to go. From there we hoped to dodge all the hooks and elbows, get into formation down the back straight and speed home together to the finish line and get 1-2-3. Ultimately the plan was still only a plan and it was a ballsy attempt to beat them all. The punters were on our side too with them betting that we would all finish top 3. We went out there with our chests puffed out and extra armor on the shoulders and hips and rode like men possessed to finish with Shane in 1st, me with the 2nd, and Scott in 3rd.
All three of us were over the moon to have worked well together and stuck to our guns and held the line, keeping the Japanese at bay.
Once returning home we packed up and had a well deserved Sochu and Oolong tea drinking session (healthy way to get drunk) to celebrate a successful season. One to remember!
Season build up
Once returning home in mid September it was straight into a Bike NZ training camp held at the Millennium Institute in Albany for 2 weeks of power erg training and gym sessions with the rest of the NZ team. It was great to get back into a squad of boys that are all so motivated for the up and coming World Cup season and Oceania Champs. These guys have really kicked it up a level after London and we truly believe we can topple the big nations and get the great result we deserve. During my stay in Auckland I was fortunate enough to pick up my new Volkswagen GTI from my good mate Rodney and I must admit it’s quite the car with 18-inch alloy wheels, red brake calipers and its lowered sports suspension – the perfect mix of high performance and economy.
During my stay in Auckland I decided to drive home and visit the new velodrome in Cambridge and also my new ‘home’ in the years to come. The site truly a sight to behold and it will be a spectacular destination and training facility once the construction is complete
After a resting week at home with my family, I’m now in Invercargill ahead of our next training camp to prepare for the first World Cup in Manchester on the 2nd of November. We then return straight back to Invercargill for the Oceania Champs and New Zealand UCI Grand Prix. The last race of the year will then be the Mexico World Cup in early December.
Its going to be a hard and fast few months but as always I am enthusiastic and excited for it because there is nothing better than making your family, friends, supporters, and sponsors proud.
Simon van Velthooven
New Zealand Sprint Cyclist
World, Commonwealth, Olympic Medalist
Proud Volkswagen Ambassador