Cultural differences and personal reinvention
After a less than satisfying year, Barloworld's David George wants to get back to the basics, and become the rider he believes he was destined to be when he first turned professional. As the team prepares itself for its season in Europe, Shane Stokes speaks with a man dealing with cultural differences and personal reinvention.
Despite being just 28 years of age, David George is one of the most experienced South African racing cyclists. Back in 1997 he finished third in the under 23 world championship time trial and then repeated the podium position the following season in the Commonwealth Games TT. Third place in the 2002 Tour de Langkawi was followed by the first of three consecutive wins in the Giro Del Capo, South Africa's premier stage race. The former US Postal Service rider was also the national road race champion in 2003 and the time trial winner one year later.
That national crown, his third Giro Del Capo win and sixth in the Tour de Langkawi would seem to mark out last season as a good one, but George says he was disappointed with his year. "I think you have good years and bad years," he says. "For me personally it was a disappointing year, for various reasons. Physically... I fell off twice at the start of the year and never gave my body enough time to recover from it. I spent the whole year nursing a back injury and being frustrated that I wasn't getting the results that I wanted to get. But hopefully we have solved the problem."
That frustration boiled over into a falling out with the Team Barloworld management last year and the news that he would not be riding with the team in 2005. However, things were smoothed over and he is now back firmly in the fold; indeed, if his relaxed, satisfied demeanour at the recent training camp is anything to go by, he seems to be in good spirits and looking forward to the year ahead. He sees 2005 as an opportunity to step up the level of his performances and to learn from the established European professionals now riding as part of the Team Barloworld-Valsir squad.
"I think it is difficult to set out goals right now because we don't know the full programme, but from a personal point of view I want to reinvent myself," he told Cyclingnews. "I want to get back to basics as a bike rider, to the things I was good at when I turned pro. Obviously, I will support the big riders who have come to the team and try to learn from them. I will play a strong supporting role and hopefully get the opportunity to shine at what I am good at."
"Time trialling has always been a passion of mine, but I have never been allowed to shine at that. So I think I would like to reinvent myself this year and work on that. And obviously just working on a few victories, it is time for now to start winning races... stages in stage races or one day races, there is definitely scope for that this year."