Former stage winner back racing down under with UnitedHealthcare
On the cusp of starting his 14th year as a professional, Ben Day is still enjoying racing as much as ever. It may take him a few flat whites in the morning but the Colorado based Australian is looking forward to racing back in Australia at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour with his UnitedHealthcare team.
"I actually had no idea we were going to do it. In November or December, I was told by my directors that I'd be kicking off at the Sun Tour. At first I was like, 'ah ok, what does that involve?' And it then it was 'cool, that'll be fun' to get back to Australia again and see friends I haven't seen for a while," Day told Cyclingnews.
Day has tasted success before at the race when he won a stage at the 2004 edition and then finished third overall in 2008 behind Stuart O'Grady and is happy to be back. "It was a shame that for the last couple of the years the race had some issues with trying to secure the correct dates and now its moved to February, the race is going to grow in stature to even what it was before."
The team enters the race with potential and proven stage winners although Day was quick to explain the temperature are going to test himself and his teammates. "The one thing that worries me this week is the weekend coming up when it'll be over 40 degrees Celsius. We have intentions, we're here to race but some of my guys are coming out of temperatures that no-one has ever seen down here or even heard of.
"A lot of people are asking me 'are you going to crush it this week?' I'm definitely not going to talk negatively but I don't know. Everyone if fit, we've had some great training camps already in Arizona so we're fit and ready to go but we haven't started racing for the year yet."
With its new slot on the calendar, riders and teams have upped their professional approach to the race which is only a good thing Day explained. "Everyone used to say that this was the 'fun tour' but we still raced hard. It was in November so you had guys with different levels of motivation, now that's in February at the end of the Australian season the Aussie boys are flying at the moment.
"There is going to be a lot of hard racing but we'll get amongst it and kick the season off."
Day is a past Australian national time trial champion back in 2003 but the opening prologue isn't quite to his suiting and instead he will be targeting the queen stage on Sunday up Arthur's Seat.
"I think it's going to be a very tight race and a prestigious place to win. The crowds are going to be amazing down there and it's a great location so I think it's a fun way to kick off this race. When you look at Sunday's stage up Arthur's Seat, I won't say it will sort the men from the boys because there might be some guys who can win the stage tonight who will win the stage on Sunday."
Championing the depth of young talent coming through ranks of his home country, Day is looking forward to hearing the names of potential stars of the sport while racing. "I'm sure that they're will be a few I haven't heard of before and I'll open my eyes to them. Jack Haig and a few others, these 20-year-old kids are just kicking arse already. (Damien) Howson as well, I think I saw him at Tour of Utah so the young guys already at 'that level' is crazy and it's cool to see," he told Cyclingnews.
A trans-Atlantic season beckons
With the majority of professional racing taking place in Europe and racing for an American based team means that Day will make several trips across the vast expanse of the Atlantic this year as he clocks up the air miles.
After his jaunt down under, Day returns home to the States for a training block before heading over to Europe to continue his 2014 season where he'll be based for five weeks. "I'll do a good block of racing mainly in France, Italy and maybe a little bit in Belgium then I'll back in the US and looking at the bigger tours there. After that, I'll travel back and forth between Europe."
The Pro-Continental outfit is targeting a grand tour berth this season after missing out on a wild card invitation to the Giro d'Italia. "The team is pretty ambitious this year, we're focusing on the Vuelta a España and we're ready for a grand tour so we hope we can get that his year. We have Milano-San Remo scheduled in so everyone is pretty excited about that which has meant some seven to seven and half hour training rides with that in mind."
Having spent almost 15 years in the peloton, Day has changed his approach from having one big season goal to having a consistent season overall. "I'm looking more towards the end of March, early-April when we have Coppi e Bartali in Italy and some nice time trials on terrain I really like to race over.
"Back in the US, we have Tour of Gila and Tour of California then Utah and Colorado, which is kind of my adopted hometown so it really inspires me."
While he may be a veteran of the sport, Day is enjoying his racing just as much as when he started although some mornings are harder than others. "I'm a little big grumpier in the mornings but that's nothing some flat whites can't fix."
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