Beef, lamb and beetroot; the food of champions. Well this is according to Sheffield farmer Gary Ferguson and he is well-qualified to make that claim. Last year, Gary (representing New Zealand) won a world TimeTrial title. Time Trialling is a cycling discipline that requires competitors to cycle as hard as they can over a fixed distance.
Gary credits his success on the international stage to a lifetime’s diet based on homegrown beef and lamb and his fondness for beetroot, but his fiercely competitive nature, fitness and mental toughness have played just as an important role.
The Ferguson family, who have been long-standing and valued Luisetti Seeds’ clients, farm Baldoon, a hill country property at Dalethorpe near Sheffield. Gary is the cousin of Margaret Luisetti (Max Luisetti’s wife). The Sheffield hills have proved to be the ideal training ground for Gary and he says running up and down the hills, often with a knapsack on his back, means half of his training has been done before he has even got on his bike.
Gary admits he grew up racing, initially around the house, but later on the farm where he and his son Tom turned everything into a competition, whether it was walking up a hill or crutching a sheep.
Gary initially channelled this competitiveness into multi-sport, but at the age of 60 decided to focus solely on cycling.
The concept of competing on the world stage only occurred to him when his cousin Sharon Prutton, also a talented international award-winning cyclist, was racing successfully in the Northern Hemisphere.
“It suddenly occurred to us that Europeans have the same amount of legs that we’ve got.”
Gary and his wife Pat have been able to travel and compete internationally because Tom and his wife have taken over the day-to-day running of the farm. Although Gary still does a full day’s work when he is at home, starting at 7.30 am and finishing at 3.00 pm so he can jump on his bike.
He estimates that he trains on his bike for around six hours a week. This includes a three-plus hour hill ride at the weekend and shorter more intense rides during the week.
As he says, he “bikes like I mean it,” and this intensity is ideally suited for Time-Trials over the more tactical road racing.
“I would rather bucket out the septic tank than do that.”
Gary races locally over summer (every Tuesday at Tai Tapu) and at the national championships held in April every year, before heading over to compete at international Time-Trials in the European summer.
These competitions have taken him and Pat (“you can’t go without the mechanic”) to Denmark, Austria and to Poland, which is where Gary took the world title.
He says he had all his ducks in a row going into that race. He wasn’t injured, he wasn’t crook, it was hot, which suits Gary, and while the 18km course was flat, featuring six-inch potholes, it had tight corners which required slowing down and explosive bursts of speed, exactly how Gary had trained.
Possibly Gary’s most valuable asset, apart from Pat, is a mental toughness that has come from farming through economic reforms, droughts and snowfalls.
Even his toughest races are nothing like the adversity he has faced over a life-time of farming and the beef and lamb he produces puts that essential steel in his legs.
He steers well clear of salad and can proudly say he has never eaten quiche. He says ultimately, it comes down to who is prepared to suffer the most and Gary was that man in Poland.
COVID-19 has put an end to Gary and Pat’s plan to compete in Canada this year, but the training continues and Gary is looking forward to competing internationally again in the future.
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