Cycling: Aaron Gate's Austrian win brings unexpected 'meaty' pay-off

Aaron Gate
Kiwi cyclist Aaron Gate shows off his KOM prize. Photo credit: Karen M Edwards

As far as carry-on luggage goes, strolling down an aeroplane aisle with a 6kg, metre-long stick of salami is right up there.

New Zealand cyclist Aaron Gate didn't expect to have that problem nor did he expect to end up with the King of the Mountains jersey in the Tour of Austria.  

The Aqua Blue Sport rider is more accustomed to a sprint finish than grinding up a hill, but after team leader Stefan Denifl crashed into a tree a couple of days out from the race, the gameplan was shaken up.

Before he knew what was going on, the 27-year old found himself in the breakaway on Day One.

"It wasn't originally planned and there were four category-three climbs on the first stage," he said. "I thought, 'Ah well, since I'm up here, I might as well take these points if I can'.

"Sure enough, I managed to secure all of the points on that day and then one thing led to another, and I ended up chasing it for the entire week."

That's where the salami comes in. As well as being presented with the traditional polka-dot jersey at the end of each day, the Tour of Austria offers something extra.

"Yeah it was classic! It just so happened that the sponsor of the jersey was a meat distributor, so getting a nice 6kg, metre-long salami on the podium each day was a novelty."

It was a bit of a joke at first, until Gate began racking up the points in the breakaway and the meat also began to pile up.

"After a couple of them, I told one of the team helpers to start putting them in the mechanic and the other staff's lunches.

"It actually ended up being quite good salami, believe it or not. I thought it was going be some sort of generic cheap stuff, but it was actually pretty tasty."

Gate freely admits it's not a classification he'd usually go for, particularly with his background as a track rider, but it was satisfying to see his transformation from the velodrome to the road continue to evolve.

"I had to pick my battles and it was about reading the course for the day. It just so happened that I managed to get in the break five out of eight stages, which proved to be enough to tie the competition up with a day to spare."

The Aucklander ended up with 48kg of salami in total, courtesy of eight sticks.

"I managed to distribute them among the team and also gave one to the guy that gave me the biggest run for my money in the competition. He finished in second, he was in the breakaway as many days as I was, so I felt he’d earned a sausage and he seemed to appreciate that."

He even brought one home with him, and had "no stress" getting it through customs.

It was rich reward for Gate, who had a rough start to the year, breaking his wrist in January.

After a spell off the bike, his season has got better and better, highlighted by his impressive win in Austria.

And September's world championships, also in Austria, are now on his horizon.

"Hopefully, that King of the Mountains classification shows that I can go uphill alright. I'm not going to be in contention for the win, but with the likes of George Bennett and if we send a team there to support him, it could be a good result for New Zealand."

The course has already been labelled the hardest in history, featuring more 4000 metres of climbing. That’s not usually Gate's cup of Powerade, but he's confident the current strength in New Zealand cycling means they can deliver a good performance.

"Dion Smith, he's been climbing well, and Paddy Bevin, and there are lots of other Kiwis that have been going well and doing their specific roles within their teams. I think NZ could actually field quite a strong team."

It's been a feast of cycling for Gate and with plenty more to come, it’s just as well he's been fuelling up.



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