Hayden Roulston marked man at road champs
Hayden Roulston is taking on a seige mentality ahead of the defence of his national road cycling title and claims he is "hated" by many of the competitors.
It doesn't bother him - far from it; Roulston is using it as motivation as he strives for his fourth road race title, this Sunday on the hilly Cashmere course.
The 32-year-old likes the idea of being hunted, of having a target on his back. He likes the fact other riders want to knock him off his perch. It spurs him on.
"It's not easy being the target, being hated to some extent," he said.
"But, at the end of the day, I'd be the same if I was in their position, you always want to beat everyone, especially the guy who's won it before."
For most riders, it's not out and out hatred as much as respect for what Roulston's done on the bike. As confident as he seems on the bike, like last year, Roulston laughed off talk of the title being his to lose.
While he accepts he's one of the favourites for Sunday's 183.7km race which includes 10 trips up Dyers Pass, a fourth title is far from a fait accompli, he said.
There were a handful of riders Roulston was wary of, but he preferred not to narrow his focus too tightly because he said that would leave other riders open to hurt him.
A home-town lad through and through, he would love nothing more than to win again on Sunday.
"It's my opportunity to have a crack for myself, but that brings with it pressure too," he said.
"All eyes are on me. To win the New Zealand national title is hard, but I reckon it gets harder and harder every time. The quality of the field is stronger and even the guys that aren't pros, they're stronger too now. All the good young amateurs want to be pros one day so they're working really hard too."