Cyclist Chris Jenner looks back on glory days

Last updated 05:00 18/07/2009

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Upper Hutt's Chris Jenner remains the only Kiwi cyclist to have won a stage at the Tour de France a team time trial with Credit Agricole in his only tour, back in 2001.

Fred Woodcock catches up with the 34-year-old to see where life has taken him.

Where are you now and what are you up to?

I'm actually living in New Caledonia, in Mont Dore, which is just south of Noumea. My wife [Christele] is originally from here. We've been living here for the last three years. I bought a video shop two years ago so I'm renting DVDs and stuff like that at the moment.

Sounds like long hours?

No, I have two people working for me so I only work 20 hours a week, which is enough for me. I try not to overwork myself.

What about immediately after you retired, at the end of 2004?

In 2005 I worked with Bike NZ taking riders to and from races in the south of France, where they had their base, and halfway through 2006 I came back here to live.

Initially you were going to be a steward for Air Caledonia, is that right?

I did all the courses and then I ended up buying the video shop so I took a totally different path. I had finished my career and it was a case of "what am I going to do job-wise"? and keeping as many paths open until I knew what I wanted to do.

What is living in New Caledonia like?

It's pretty good. It's 25 degrees [Celsius] in the winter and 35C in the summer a bit like Wellington really.

What about you family situation, you've got two children?

Yeah, a little girl who is nine [Anais] and a little boy [Lucas] who is five.

What language do you speak at home?

We speak French most of the time, living here in New Caledonia. It's easier for the kids.

You'd be well versed in the French language by now?

Pretty much. I left New Zealand when I was 18, when I came over here for the first time to do the Tour of New Caledonia, and I would've been 19 when I went to France.

Are you still involved with cycling at all?

I've been looking after all sorts of people over here, actually, but nothing really serious.

Every now and then people ask me for a bit of help so I put together a little bit of a programme together for them for a few months.

In 2007, I brought some local riders over to New Zealand for a couple of tours.

This year we came over and did the tour in Queenstown again and now I've just organised a race for them in Australia next month, the Tour of Geelong.

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I don't work a lot so I have some time to do that stuff.

And do you still follow top-cycling?

I watch a bit it's always interesting to see how riders you've raced with or against are going.

You're still only 34 so you retired young in cycling terms. Why?

In cycling, you get to a point where you ask "do I keep going and chugg along"? I realised I wasn't going to go any further. I had reached a point where there was nothing more physically that I could do and then there was the travel and we had kids, too.

I had made enough money. I had a six-year contract as a professional rider but I had already spent four years in France making money, so it's like I did 10 years, and that's about average for a bike rider before you've had enough.

I could've raced somewhere else but I had honestly had enough at that stage. I started when I was 15 so it was 15 years of non-stop training and racing.

So there are no regrets when you see the likes of Julian Dean still going?

No, not really. Julian probably started a lot later than I did so he's only actually been on the European programme now for five or six years, so he's come to the stage now where I was when I retired.

What are you memories from the 2001 tour?

Just the joy of being on the startline for the first time and having all the crowds around you, and being in what was the No1 team that year.

We won the team time trial, we had Stuart O'Grady who won a stage, we had a green jersey, a yellow jersey. I only did one tour but you could say I did one of the best tours. I was pretty lucky.

And, of course, you remain the only New Zealander to have won a stage?

Yeah, I was hoping Julian was going to win a stage the other day with his team in the time trial. It would've been good after being on the tour for so many years.

- The Dominion Post

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