While Australia’s Ben King has already pulled on a Trek-Livestrong jersey many times, next week’s Tour of Qatar will be the first time he’ll compete with his new squad. The Under 23 squad has secured a start in Qatar and the Tour of Oman, as just one of five non-ProTour squads to start the races.
King expects Qatar to be a steep learning curve, with the team facing the difficulties presented by the region’s strong winds and the ProTour team’s strong sprinters. He hopes when the team reaches Oman it will have an opportunity to make its mark.
“I have a basic idea of what is going to happen in Qatar,” King told Cyclingnews. “The wind is going to be screaming across the road at 30 knots, the flag drops and the field is stretched into 15 echelons. But Oman should be good for me and the younger guys on the squad to start to read and understand the dynamics of high-end professional bike racing. I mean that’s what we are all aiming to be, right?
“We don't have a ProTour or Professional Continental squad at Trek-Livestrong U23 presented by Radioshack, but I think if we can take some chances and maybe show a few jokers in our hand when the time is right a jerseys or a top 10 in a stage would be fantastic,” he added.
King has been clocking up the frequent flyer miles during the off season, travelling to the United States of America for two team camps and competing at home in the Australian Open Road Championships Under 23 race with team-mate and compatriot Tim Roe. King is sharing a house with Roe and other team-mates in Boulder, Colorado for the year.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind couple of months to say the least,” King said. “Both of the camps have been a lot of fun, with the second camp in Solvang being a bit of a wash out, literally. I was sick of the trainer after that week.
“I'm living in a house in Boulder - which couldn't have been possible without the help from Reed Macalvin and his lovely wife - with Tim Roe, Alex Dowsett and Jesse Sergeant,” said King. “We've all gelled really well, we train together and hang out with Taylor a lot, we've managed to find a few good brew shops in town and as you know that’s the most important part of any easy day.”
King raced with the SouthAustralia.com-AIS national team in 2008 before joining Fly V Australia last year. After a difficult season King finished last year with a strong ride to eighth overall at New Zealand’s Tour of Southland, which he admits was a surprise.
“To be honest with you I didn't go there with any expectations, I had a bit of time off following the Sun Tour and went there at the end of a long season,” said King. “I think I really surprised myself and my team, Calder Stewart of New Zealand, with a top 10 and the KOM jersey a nice reward following a difficult year.
“I'm feeling happy again and am enjoying riding my bike, which I haven't experienced for a long time,” he added. “I know I'm in a much better physical and mental state to tackle the new season and for that reason I have high expectations on myself to do well.”
With a fresh outlook in hand King is aiming to kick some big goals this season, with the aim of turning professional next season. Having finished second in Australia’s toughest one day race, Melbourne-Warnambool, King has his eyes set on the Under 23 Paris-Roubaix classic this year.
“I really want to succeed this year and ultimately turn professional at the end of the year,” he said. “Race wise I think Olympia’s Tour, Roubaix, baby Giro, Cascade and Utah are the races I want to try and shine in. I do well in tough and trying conditions.
“But really I just want to be healthy and happy and try and get my folks over to the states or Europe and watch me race a bit,” he added. “The old man works way too hard and as it’s his 50th this year so I think he and mum should take a month off and travel.”