Sam Horgan is hoping his new Australian team will help him return to form as he continues his comeback from injury.
Horgan is riding for Australian outfit Team Budget Forklifts in the New Zealand Cycle Classic through Manawatu this week. He joined them after his New Zealand-based Team Subway went under last year.
The former Palmerston North Boys' High School student found it tough in the opening-stage time trial at Massey University yesterday.
"Usually I'm OK at a time trial but I had a really nasty crash in late October, so I haven't hit my best since then, but I'm chipping away at it," he said.
During the Tour of Tasmania he was clipped into a barrier at high speed. The crash saw him off the bike for five weeks and left him with a nasty scar on his chin - he hit the ground face-first, broke and dislocated fingers and was knocked out.
But he had been doing some good rehabilitation riding for the Australian team he joined at the start of the year.
Budget Forklifts is one of three Australian continental teams who race in Asia and Australia, including the national road series and the Herald Sun Tour in Victoria earlier this month, making for a busy year for Horgan.
"Oceania champs are in March, then NRS kicks off in April and it's pretty much full gas from there."
He is still based in Christchurch but said he was lucky enough to have a good boss at his job as an engineer, who lets him take time off to race.
Horgan was disappointed with how he had gone in yesterday's time trial, with his 9 minutes 59 seconds well behind winner Joseph Cooper's 9min 10sec.
Horgan said Cooper would be hard to beat, but he was confident of making up time on roads he knew well from his early days riding in Manawatu.
"I think having lost a bit of time, the plan will be to be aggressive and the next couple of days really suit aggressive riding," Horgan said.
"Out the back of Apiti, I know that like the back of my hand and there will be some really good, tough riding."
The 25-year-old believed today's 143km stage to Apiti via Feilding and back would be tough but didn't think stage four up Saddle Road would be as tough as some thought.
"It's not super gnarly or steep but it can be really exposed. The wind is almost as big a factor as the gradient itself, so I'm looking forward to that one.
"It may not be my cup of tea but if the race is in pieces before we get there, I'll be more keen. I think it will be a much different story after the next two days out around Apiti."
- © Fairfax NZ News