Top Kiwi cyclist Aaron Gate is targeting a track and road double at April’s Commonwealth Games, despite breaking his wrist in a Melbourne race over the weekend.
The Aqua Blue Sport rider came unstuck as he was trying to move up to the front of the peleton and was fortunate to escape more serious damage.
"I could sense myself going down and I looked straight ahead and saw I was going straight for two wooden posts on the side of the road. I luckily somehow managed to end up between them, but it’s still never fun crashing,” he told Newshub.
The 26-year-old went down hard after the rider in front of him swung out and clipped his wheel. He ended up with a compound fracture, and needed surgery to fit a titanium plate and screws into his bone.
“I had some doctors that night under a local anaesthetic trying to pull my hand back into place, which was quite a weird sensation.”
Thankfully, the injury won’t keep him sidelined for long. He’s back training indoors this week, dealing with the Auckland humidity and a sweaty plaster cast.
Gate’s interest in the Commonwealth Games is a huge boost for the New Zealand Cycling team. Many of the country's best riders, including George Bennett and Jack Bauer, have ruled themselves out due to commitments with their professional teams.
Gate’s grateful to have the support of his Irish outfit Aqua Blue Sport, who understand his desire to represent New Zealand.
“My team’s been pretty accommodating and it sounds like they’re going to be able to release me for that which will be exciting.”
Not only is Gate a solid performer on the road, he’s also a gun on the track. He won bronze in the points race in Glasgow four years ago, while he finished second in the omnium at the World Champs last year.
The road race on the Gold Coast is his priority, but the velodrome is also a tempting prospect.
“I haven’t ruled out trying to do one of the track events, winning bronze on the points race in Glasgow is something I’d like to go back and have another crack at for a couple of extra places up the podium.
We’ll just have to wait and see what Cycling New Zealand say and what’s possible there.”
Gate’s entering his second year with his Pro-Continental team, and with a season of tough racing under his belt, he’s feeling more comfortable.
“It was definitely a lot of learning last year, it was my biggest year racing wise and the team was sort of still developing as well.”
That experience is setting him up nicely for this year, and a familiar face in the team is helping out too.
“This year will be bigger and better, we’ve only three new riders, one of them being fellow Kiwi Shane Archbold. It’s pretty cool to have another Kiwi in there that I can have some banter with.”
After an impressive debut season that featured plenty of breakaway action, Aqua Blue Sport have been unlucky to miss out on wildcard spots for some of the sports’ biggest races, including the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.
“Yeah it’s certainly disappointing. We knew it was going to be a tough act getting into some of those races because it’s such a fierce competitions for so few spots.”
Because they’re a Pro-Continental team, they don’t get automatic entry into the big races. But there are still plenty of other events to look forward to, including the Tour of Switzerland and the famous Liège–Bastogne–Liège in Belgium.
“It sounds like I’m going to get a bit more of a free reign on some of the hilly one-day races so we’ll have to see how it goes after the injury … but one of the big focusses will be setting the fast guys up for the sprints and then taking any opportunities where they come.”