Brendan Canty is aiming to kick-start the 2018 season with a strong Tour Down Under appearance next month. The Australian on Cannondale-Drapac was due to start the WorldTour opener in January only for illness to rule him out on the eve of the race.
Back in training after his first season in the WorldTour ranks and a season that stretched from the Australian nationals in January through to Il Lombardia in October, Canty's focus is on starting the season well on home soil.
"Hopefully there is some opportunities to support a rider for a good result or have a chance for something myself for a day or two depending on how the race plays out," Canty told Cyclingnews of his approach to the 20th edition of the Tour Down Under. "There are a few good races here and then we pop over to Europe for a training camp early next year. It is nice that it is not a big block of racing here but it's solid racing and there are opportunities to start the season in a really good way."
Canty will also line out for the Australian nationals a week prior to the Tour Down Under with potentially Mitch Docker, Simon Clarke and Will Clarke for company in the road race. However, despite his sixth-place against the clock in 2017, Canty won't be starting the time trial.
"There is a bit more a mix in the WorldTour teams racing nationals in January assuming they all register to race, we'll have a very interesting dynamic to the race," he said, pointing to Simon Gerrans' move to BMC and the changes to Orica-Scott's roster. "It will be intriguing but the focus is the Tour Down Under. All of us would hope that someone on the team could win the national title."
At the 2017 edition of the race, Canty finished seventh in the front group as Miles Scotson claimed the win. Recovering from the illness that saw him miss the Tour Down Under, then placed 20th at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race to close out his Australian start to the season.
Turning 26 on January 17, the 2018 season will be Canty's third as a professional and first in which he starts with a Grand Tour in the legs. Although yet to feel the benefits of the Vuelta a Espana, Canty explained that an almost 30 hour week of training didn't feel out of the ordinary.
"I did 28 hours of training last week and for me, typically 28 hours of training used to be massive. I didn't feel like it was a crazy big week or anything so I guess I can contribute some of that to the Vuelta for sure but sometimes I don't notice it directly," he said, adding "Mentally you learn a lot and there were some days at the Vuelta where I performed really well when I wouldn't have expected to at all."
Along with clocking up the training kilometres, Canty has also been making the most of the off-season by checking in with his coaches, working on his strength and conditioning programme, and taking skin folds for example. The latter an important process as he explained.
"I've been taking a couple of skin folds with my coach and some baseline testing which is always good to do at this time of year," he said, "And if you do it at this time of the year then it is consistent as typically you do it this time of year. You can then get a good gauge on trends and sometimes you worry or stress about your form and how fit you are at this time of year after a few weeks off, but then you can look at previous years and see the exact same as this time last year."
For Canty, the off-season could have gone in an entirely different direction. In 2016, he benefitted from the Drapac and Cannondale merger as it elevated him into the WorldTour but when the news came through at the Vuelta that the team were on the brink of closure, a premature end to his contract was a very real possibility. Having kept his faith in team management finding a financial solution to the budget shortfall, Canty was rewarded and kept his place in the WorldTour.
With his first season under his belt, Canty is hoping that after the Australian summer of racing, he can follow a similar programme to 2017 and take the lessons he learned into the new year.
"If I can race some of those races again for a second time, that will be a really big advantage for me knowing the type of races, the roads, the weather of the area when you are racing at that time of the year," added Canty. "All the races I did this year I did for the first time where a lot of the guys I raced against had done them five or six times."