By August last year, Brendan Canty had completed his final race with the Drapac squad, bringing down the curtains on his 2016 season at the Volta a Portugal. Fast forward to 2017 and the 25-year-old is midway through a two-week block of altitude training in Andorra aiming to ensure his place on Cannondale-Drapac's Vuelta a Espana squad.
A runner before turning his attention to cycling, Canty spent 2015 at Continental level with Budget Forklifts before moving to the Pro-Conti ranks with Drapac and completed the move into the WorldTour in 2017. The trilingual Melbournian has had a taste of top WorldTour stage racing at Critérium du Dauphiné, Tour de Romandie, and Volta a Catalunya and is hungry for the Vuelta.
"It's not 100 per cent confirmed. I am quite hopeful to have a start there and that's why I am up here in Andorra training at the altitude," Canty told Cyclingnews on a rest day from his training programme. "Lots of things can always change last minute but I am pretty sure that there is a good chance I'll be on the start line. At last least I am hoping there is a good chance."
Canty explained that is place on the Cannondale-Drapac long list for the Spanish Grand Tour was a combination of both rider and team proposing the idea.
"It is a bit of both. I would really like to do it. I think it would be a huge challenge for me and I think it would be something really good to get under my belt for the experience," said Canty. "I think the team sees it in the same light, particularly with me having the contract next year I think it would be the best move for the team to put me in a race like that and see how I cope. Some of the DS's like Jaunma [Garate] says it will be really good for me if I can race a Grand Tour and the earlier you can get one done in your career, then it can make you a better rider in the long term. I really want to do the race and from the team's perspective, there is a lot of perspective putting me into something like the Vuelta."
In his debut WorldTour season, Canty has found himself in a variety of roles and when it comes to the Vuelta and his aims, the 25-year-old is opened minded. But is clear he wants to "finish the race.
"I'll sit down and speak with the team to find out what the goals are for the team and my job within the team there to accomplish that," he said. "Whether that is trying to help other riders get a stage win and how I can help with that, or potentially if I have my own opportunities depend on how the form is. You have to be realistic and I think it will be one of the biggest challenges I will face so far. I'll take it one step at a time I think."
Cannondale-Drapac broke its two-year WorldTour in drought at the Tour of California with Andrew Talansky, where Canty was riding in support of the American. It was quickly back in the winner's books at the Giro d'Italia with Rolland and then at the Tour de France with Rigoberto Uran snagging a stage and riding to second place overall. At the Vuelta, the team will be aiming to continue its Grand Tour winning streak with Canty explaining the change in vibe after Talansky's win.
His win started it and then you saw more success as we got the stage win with Pierre at the Giro and then also getting the result, the big one, with Rigoberto winning the stage at the Tour de France and second on GC there. I think you can definitely feel a bit more of a vibe within the team turning up to races. Not so much confidence and not so much relaxed but it's hard to describe it. It is definitely a nice feeling to be part of a team that gets results," he said. "I think you can definitely feel a bit more of a vibe within the team turning up to races. Not so much confidence and not so much relaxed but it's hard to describe it. It is definitely a nice feeling to be part of a team that gets results."
Learning and living the WorldTour life
A Vuelta a Espana call up for Canty would represent his fast accelerations through the cycling ranks. It was only in March at the Volta a Catalunya that Canty enjoyed the experience of a team bus and team chef at his disposal.
"For me, it was stepping into the WorldTour but also stepping into the deep end of the bigger, harder races and that is when get the team chef and bits and pieces like that I just loved it with the level of support and the staff and everything like that," he said of his first major European race.
The 2017 season isn't Canty's rodeo with a stage win at the Tour of Austria and seventh place finish at the Tour of Oman last year signals of his potential. However, two distinct experiences stand out for Canty in highlighting the differences at the top end of the sport.
"I crossed the line with Andrew Talansky and he was laughing and said 'don't worry, not all WorldTour races are like that'. That stage was a little bit of an exception I think. That sets the benchmark for what was in store for the rest of the season," he said.
The second came at the Tour de Romandie with Canty describing it as "the coldest day I've ever experienced in my life on the bike.
"We were riding through snow and climbing but then we had to descend through it for a long time and still had about an hour and a half of racing with everyone soaked to the bone," he said of the shortened stage 2. "I had never experienced weather like that before so it is nice to say that I have done it. I've had people say it doesn't get any colder than that which is nice to know because I don't think I could deal with anything colder than that."
Instead of focusing on the misfortune of missing the time cut off or lose feeling because of the cold, a philosophical Canty takes it all in his stride and sees such opportunities as examples to learn from the next time things don;t go to plan. A philosophy that will certainly assist him through a debut Vuelta later this month should he receive confirmation of a start.
"There is a lot in cycling where you can have misfortune and things don't really go your way. I guess it is how you deal with those situations and it is quite funny for me, I think I have mentioned it before but every scenario seems to usually motivate me more than the opposite," he said. "If I go well at a race it's obviously great and it motivates you again for the next race to be going good.
"If I go to a race and don't perform where I think I can or what I should have done or things didn't really go well, that makes me want to go back to the training board and work harder and train a bit smarter to become better for the next race. Crashing out of Austria, a race I won a stage at last year was definitely disappointing but there are so many different races throughout the season that you deal with issues and move on. I don't think you can let it affect you too much."