For many cyclists the uncertainty surrounding contracts is unlike ever before with teams folding left-right-and-centre at WorldTour and Pro-Continental level. Australian Allan Davis is one of many still holding out hope for a ride in 2014 following Orica-GreenEdge's decision not to renew his contract. When the Vuelta de España champion Chris Horner is still waiting for the same phone call with the offer of a ride next year, times must be tough.
Allan Davis has over thirty wins to his name and podium places at the world championships and Milan-San Remo. In his two years with GreenEdge, Davis had only a solitary win which came at the Bay Classic Series in Port Phillip Bay in 2012. While he wasn't winning races, he provided invaluable experience to the younger riders on the team and mentoring is something he is looking to explore in a post-riding career. Although Davis is still is keen to "continue racing for the next five years, or six!"
Davis has been riding and training in his adopted home of Spain with the goal of impressing in Australia over the coming months. This has included some novel approaches to getting back into top shape. "I've started running and did a half marathon after the season ended, I also got back in the gym. I've been back on the bike now for a month, doing a bit of track racing which has been good fun," Davis told Cyclingnews.
While Davis flirted with the plan of doing some six-day racing, the scheduling would have meant missing the opportunity to race on home roads. Economic pressure has extended to the velodrome and a resulted in a reduction in races. "Even six days racing has sort of disappeared. There's nothing at the moment. There is a bit on in January in the New Year but I'll be Australia until February," he said.
"I'm keeping my options open for next year, but I'm not sure yet. I'm concentrating on finding a team at the moment and staying on the road for next year. If I did the sixers, I'd have to stay here in January and that takes out everything with the road. I'm definitely contemplating it."
Davis is planning on finding his racing legs and getting back up to speed at the last race he won, the 'Bay Crits,' (Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic) with the hope of a place at the Tour Down Under. There are places available on the UniSA team and Davis is looking to get his name down on the team sheet. "I'm ready to go for Tour Down Under and hopefully the (Jayco Herald) Sun Tour as well depending on selection. I know I'd be competitive in winning stages and doing what I normally do," he said.
With regular announcements by sponsors withdrawing financial support and the collapse of Fernando Alonso's attempt to buy the Euskaltel-Euskadi license, the annual challenge of negotiating contracts has intensified. Davis is hoping that a successful stint down under can eventuate in a deal for 2014 and beyond.
If Davis was forced into retirement there would be little regret over what he achieved. "I'm really proud of what I've achieved now in professional cycling. The only regret that I'd have is that I wouldn't be stopping on my terms due to the situation of the sport at the moment. There are a lot guys in the same boat and I'm not bitter or have a grudge against anyone," he explained.
In looking for permanent ride, Davis is keeping his options open and a return to an Australian team is a possibility. "I'd contemplate a NRS offer. I'd have to weigh it up obviously. I have a mortgage over here, a partner and baby. It's where I've lived since I was 17-years-old, I'd definitely consider it," he said.
"There are a few options I've contacted back home which would have been good. I think that there are, not only now, but in the future a lot of possibilities as well. I'd really love to share my experience, not only to Europeans but to Australians and it's something that I'd enjoy at this time of my career."
The loss of teams has not only affected the riders as Davis reflected on the upheaval in the sport. "No one that I've spoken to has said they have seen it like this and that’s speaking to the guys who have been in the sport for thirty years. Directors, soigneurs and mechanics. No one's seen it like this, ever. In saying that, 2015 is already looking to be on more of an up then what it is now," he explained.
Although a prolific winner, racing has always been more than crossing the line first. Podium places at Milan San-Remo and the world championships are obvious highlights for Davis who explained, "it's not only the wins that you're most proud of, it's those sorts of achievements where you're not expected to perform that well. Those world title performances, I feel proud of."
Representing the nation
For Davis wearing the green and gold at world championships was always an honour and more than often he excelled on the bigger stages of professional cycling. "Representing my country is something that I always will take very seriously," he said.
"Every time that I raced for Australia it was something I took very seriously and stepped it up a level when I put on the green and gold. It's something that I always took to heart."
The world championships brought out the best in Davis with several impressive performances which illustrated the highs and lows of professional sport for the Queenslander. "I was very proud in Geelong (2010 world championships). That was definitely a highlight of my career. I was disappointed and proud at the same time in Verona (2004 worlds) when I ran fifth as a 24-year-old and was taken out in the sprint," he said.
"I know that I could have been on the podium there as well so I was bit disappointed but very proud to have achieved that result at a young age, much like my 12th place the year before."
While Queensland has produced several top riders, Davis described that when growing up, his hometown wasn't exposed to the world of cycling. "Where I come from, in Bundaberg, all I saw were Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and world titles. Not only cycling but all sports that I'd watch on TV as a kid growing up," he said. "I didn't even know that the Tour of Flanders or Milan-San Remo existed and all these great races. I wasn't aware of them."
In a pre-internet world, races would eventually make it to Bundaberg and several of Davis' idols from the television became his friends and teammates. "Guys like Stuey (O'Grady), Robbie (McEwen), and Henk Vogels, those sorts of guys were the ones I looked up to, watching them on TV recorded on a VHS that I'd get at my house six-months later (after the race)."
Once his knowledge of the sport grew, Davis began to target big European races for his trade team but riding for the national team remained a special occasion. "If you ask any athlete, it's bred into us Aussies, it's pretty special to represent your country. When I grew up it was representing Queensland and your country. That was it and probably where it started."
"When I got to Europe I realised the prestige of all the other races, so my goals weren't just representing my country, but performing at San Remo and other one-day races that I thought I could do well in."
With the change in the Milan-San Remo route, Davis believes the race is even more suited to his capabilities than before. "If I had the choice, it would be full gas until San Remo. Then Tour of the Basque Country, stick away from the Classics of the North, I'm not suited for them. I'd go for stages at Basque country and Catalunya for example. If things are still going good then it'd be Amstel Gold Race and that would be the first quarter of the season," he explained.
Davis may not have a team for 2014 yet, but isn't letting retirement dominate his thoughts, saying that he still has plenty left to give for years to come. Thinking about a post-racing career, Davis told Cyclingnews about his love for mentoring up-and-coming riders such as Caleb Ewan. "I'd love to do that, not only for Caleb but for all the young guys, especially the Australians. Being part of the (national) academies and institutions or the last twenty years, that would be something that I'd love to do for now and for a long time," he said
"That would be something that I'd love doing and be very passionate about and it would be great to help the younger generation get to the top and see what they can achieve."