Next stop Tour Down Under

Looking ahead to the first WorldTour race of 2014

After an exciting few days at the Australian national championships I’m already preparing for my next goal at the Tour Down Under here in Adelaide. As an Australian it’s a special race and after nationals I know that my form is moving in the right direction.

The national road race, as I’m sure you were aware, was a huge deal this time around, with massive crowds and an impressive turn out in terms of the field.

It was on the same course as always, but for guys like myself, Cadel Evans and Steele Van Hoff, the race really depended on how Drapac and Orica GreenEdge wanted to play things out. They had the numbers up there and GreenEdge backed Gerrans, who in the end was the best rider on the day. I must add that I had Nathan Earle with me and he was pretty impressive, especially as it was his first race in a Sky jersey.

Coming into the finale though I knew I wasn’t going to win a sprint, and the goal centred around finishing on the podium and making sure I came home with the best result possible. All things considered I’m content with third.

But overall I’ve had a good December, first being at the Sky training camp in Mallorca and then coming back to Tasmania for three solid weeks of putting in the long hours and tallying up the kilometers in the saddle. My weight isn’t bad for this time of year and this is probably the best place to be for training in terms of the weather as well.

As for the Tour Down Under, it’s definitely an objective. We’ve got myself and Geraint Thomas looking at GC, and at the end of the day this is a WorldTour race and despite what anyone says every event at this level has to be taken seriously.

The team haven’t put pressure on me and I saw at nationals just how strong Gerrans was, so I’d agree with most people in that he’s one of the main favourites. And being honest Cam Meyer was probably stronger than Cadel and myself as well on that final climb at nationals, too. So that puts the pressure on GreenEdge more than anything because with it being their home race they will really want to win it. I’m an Australian so of course it’s my home race and there’s an added incentive to go for the win, but I don’t feel the pressure from it being on a British team.

I also have to look at the bigger picture. It would be great to come here and get a result, but it’s a long hard season with many more objectives and races to come. I’m working hard towards the Giro d’Italia and as everyone is aware, that’s going to form a major part of my season, or at least I hope it will.

What’s good to see is that fans and the media in Australia are increasingly looking beyond the national scene and beyond the Tour de France and realising that there are more major races out there.

The Giro d’Italia itself is going to be huge challenge and come to think of it I’ll be going up against two of the podium places from last year’s Tour in Joaquim Rodriguez and Nairo Quintana, so I’m treating the challenge and the competition with the utmost respect. I’m not losing sleep over it though because there’s a long way to go until May.

Right now the biggest challenge, as I sit here in my hotel room in Adelaide, is putting up with Chris Sutton as he plays games on his iPad with the sound turned up full volume. If I can put up with that noise and his fondness for Justin Bieber I think I can deal with anything out on the road.

In all seriousness I know that Chris will be fully focussed in the coming days with the Tour Down Under and the one day race beforehand. He won that event back in 2010 and come to think of it that was Sky’s first ever win, so it’s a race that means a lot to us. I know sometimes we - Team Sky - can be seen as a team wrapped up in just a few major races on the calendar but if you talk to us riders you’ll find out that there are quite a few so called ‘small events’ dotted in the calendar that mean a lot to us on a sentimental and personal level.

So if you’re heading out to watch us at the Tour Down Under thanks for your support and if you see me as I head towards the Giro in May, give us a cheer too.

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