Drapac rider’s greatest coup comes after close calls
Rhys Pollock's general classification win at last week's Tour de Taiwan, was in many ways a relief. The Drapac rider broke through for the biggest victory of his career, but the end result was about more than just a highlight for the palmares.
Pollock claimed the yellow leader's jersey on Stage 3 and never relinquished it, eventually completing the race with a two second gap on Kam Po Wong (Hong Kong Team). His was a victory borne of persistence.
Late last year, Pollock took both the stage win and the overall lead on day one of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour – after seven years of attempting to step onto the podium. He retained the yellow jersey until three laps of the punishing Arthurs Seat climb on the penultimate day, where he failed to match the likes of Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Cervelo) and Nathan Haas (Genesys) who stole his prize. Despite knowing that at the 'Sun Tour' he would be an unlikely eventual winner, five months on in Taiwan, it was a series of events that played on Pollock's mind.
"I did say to Agostino [Giramondo, directeur sportif] after we'd won Taiwan, that if I had of lost it on the last day I would have been devastated," Pollock admitted to Cyclingnews.
Pollock capitalised on the form he hinted at during the Tour de Langkawi in February. Despite being slightly hampered by a back injury, Pollock and his Drapac team put in aggressive performance highlighted by Darren Lapthorne's stint in the overall lead.
"I still managed to get in a few breaks," Pollock said of his Langkawi experience. "We had one close call where we got caught with about 200 metres to go which was pretty scarring but I sort of made up for that in Taiwan.
"If I do one tour and have five to six days in between it seems to bring me up quite well."
Pollock, 32, went into Taiwan as Drapac's "guy to go in breakaways" – doing just that on the first two stages - escapes that largely decided the final general classification.
"On the fourth stage we tried to just get the other guys to ride aggressively and try to get into a break hoping that they could capitalise and take the lead away from me," he explained. "But on the day it never really happened and breaks just didn't go like we were hoping they would."
Pollock was amazed that he was able to hang in during stage 5's tough ascent to the finish and then survived a crash with 800 metres to go on the final day to secure his overall victory.
"On the last day we just tried to control it," he told Cyclingnews. "It was pretty nerve-wracking because it was an aggressive race and everyone was trying to get away.
"I wasn't riding across the finish with my arms in the air or anything like that," Pollock said of his recovery from the crash to complete the stage. "It would have been nice to be able to do that. I was more frustrated than anything else."
The Albury cyclist believes that his own experience says much about the trials and tribulations of racing in Asia.
"You can't go into Asian races just saying: ‘that rider's our climber and he's our leader, or he's our sprinter'," he explained. "Everyone on the team has to be able to dabble in a bit of everything to cope with the aggressive racing."
Having already exceeded his ambitions for the 2012 season, Pollock will next race in the Australian National Road Series opener, Mersey Valley Tour next month. The part-time draftsman won't travel to Europe with the rest of the Drapac team but will again re-focus on the domestic season before chasing the odd stage win in Asia towards the end of the year.
"I've been going [to Europe] for about 11 years now and I don't have ambitions to go to a bigger team or anything," Pollock explained. "I'm just happy with being on Drapac and trying to help the younger guys and help this team grow. If I can get results along the way, that's good."