An interview with Trent Wilson, April 14, 2006
Australian Trent Wilson has spent the last two years in Europe with the Italian Selle Italia-Colombia squad, racing the Giro d'Italia twice. Selle Italia didn't renew his contract for the 2006 season and so Wilson began looking at other options - but not in the US until Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity called. After a couple of conversations with the staff and Aussie neighbour Jeff Hopkins, Wilson was convinced this would be the right place for that next step in his career. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski spoke with 'Willo' at the 2006 team presentation.
Trent Wilson is known for his determination as much as for his unique sense of humour - which makes for a valuable teammate during the long cycling season. For the 2004 and 2005 seasons, Wilson was a domestique for the Selle Italia squad with good friend Russell Van Hout - gaining valuable experience and sacrificing his body in two editions of the Giro d'Italia. The news that the team was not renewing his and four other rider's contracts for this season was about as welcomed as one would imagine. "I was a bit dissapointed with that because I rode my ass off for that team. I was on the 2005 Giro team and they kicked five of those guys out, basically saying, 'Thanks for your help making us bigger and better, see ya.'"
While Wilson was contemplating his next move, an unlikely call came from across the Atlantic to come race with a continental team in Georgia, of all places. "I looked at my other options and Jittery Joe's called me and asked if I wanted to come to America. I didn't really consider that an option until Micah Rice rang me, and I was pretty impressed with what he had to say. I was confident it was a good move to come here." Also convincing Wilson was the fact that Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity has a healthy Australian contingent, including Sydney mate Jeff Hopkins. "I knew Hoppy had ridden for the team - he doesn't live far from me in Sydney, and after speaking with him he had good things to say, too."
Wilson's European experience will be welcomed at the younger Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity team, and Wilson will welcome the new opportunity to take a leadership role, even if the stages don't quite compare to the Giro. "That's the thing... you ride the Giro, the second biggest race in the world, and it's a big show. It's unbelievable the atmosphere that goes on there. Now I want to do some things for myself, instead of carrying bidons and leading people out, or riding on the front every day. There will still be times when I will have to do that, but it will be a lot less than what it was. The last couple of months with Selle Italia were unmotivating - going to races to ride for everybody else. A lot of people are noticing my attitude is a lot better this year already."
That positive attitude is easier to have when you enjoy who you are racing with. "I'm looking forward to racing with the team - I can already tell they are a top bunch of blokes. There are no egos, no 'I'm better than you'...it's a good bunch of guys." And the change of racing style from the grand tours to the land of criteriums does not worry Wilson. "There are seven major stage races here this year, and I'll be really motivated for them. In the criteriums I am really doing the work for Hoppy. In our first race together in Sydney I led him out and he won by five lengths! It was good to get a win. In the criteriums I'll be mainly working for him, and him for me in the stage races."
However, he does slip in a plug for his potential to pull out a criterium win now and again. "I did win the sprinter's jersey in the Bay Series in Melbourne, so I can ride a criterium if I really want to," he says. But he also knows his limits, having pushed them in Europe. "I'm definitely not a time trialer - so that will hurt me a bit. In Georgia especially. But if you are going well enough you can be up there anyway." Surely the lack of long time trials in the States will be to Wilson's liking.
Looking specifically at the calendar, Wilson is taking the leadership role seriously, targeting the biggest races the team has scheduled. "Tour de Georgia, Philadelphia and Tour de Beauce - I really want to do well at those races for GC. I want to see if I do have what it takes to ride the bigger tours as a GC rider, rather than just a workhorse."
When asked what the biggest difference between living in America and Italy would be, he quickly replied, "Nothing can beat Italian food! We had a burrito for dinner tonight - it was my first one ever - I'm going to have to learn to love them, I think! It wasn't quite on par with the pasta and salads in Italy, but I'll just have to change with the culture. I learned to change in Italy and speak Italian."
And even though his departure from Selle Italia was not a career highlight, he does have good memories and experiences to keep. "I had a good time at Selle Italia. Russell Van Hout was my teammate and he'll always be a best mate now because we've been through thick and thin. He'll be one of those guys I'll know when I'm sixty, I'm sure. I got a lot out of Selle-Italia and I bring a lot of experience. They say once you ride a grand tour you never lose the miles and what you get out of it. I've got two grand tours - just to know how hard you can hurt yourself..."
In addition, his new team will be fulfilling one of the promises he made to himself during his second Giro. "The first year I thought it was hard, but last year I was going OK until I crashed. I remember saying to Russel, 'If I finish this tour, I am going to buy a Mini Cooper S.' I did finish, but I didn't buy one because they are 45 grand in Australia. When I joined this team and they gave us a Mini Cooper S to drive! I solved that problem! Every race after that Giro seems a bit easier with what I had to go through for three weeks straight."
All in all, Wilson is hoping that 2006 will finally be his touchstone year, two years beyond what he expected. "Long-term, it's going to be an interesting year. I really want to step it up a notch, but I'm not counting America out [after this year.] Micah and Jesse and the team are great, and there is no reason if I have a good year I wouldn't stay. But also Europe is where it's at, and I'd like to have another go there. Two years ago I said that 2004 was going to be a big year; going to Selle-Italia, going back to Italy where I started as an amateur from Belgium - but it didn't end up turning out quite that way. Now that I am 27 I'm starting to hit my peak I suppose, and I'll get the opportunity to race for myself. If I come up with the goods, then great. I think I'll learn a lot about myself this year."
Check out the Trent Wilson diary on Cyclingnews