Anyone concerned by Rabobank sprinter Graeme Brown's unusually quiet Australian summer need not be. The four-time stage winner of the Tour Down Under says he's just getting started.
Previous starts to the season have been highlighted by Brown and compatriot Robbie McEwen's headline-grabbing antics at the Jayco Bay Series criteriums, setting the scene for Tour Down Under editions that have provided just as many fireworks. Not so in 2011.
"I made a conscious effort not to get myself amongst everything and get too carried away," Brown told Cyclingnews. "It was a very concerted effort at the Bay Series just to stay quiet and not let my mouth talk at all. Just use it for what it's meant to be used for."
Brown's uncharacteristic silence was also the result of the form of Michael Matthews. The Rabobank neo pro rode with Brown for Urban, and took the second stage in Portarlington to claim the leader's jersey. Matthews held onto the general classification until the fourth and final stage before narrowly losing it to Matthew Goss.
"I rode on the front a fair bit and that therefore eliminated any sort of chance for me," Brown explained. "He [Matthews] was in the yellow jersey so I did everything I could to help him defend it."
Rabobank finally geared for team success at Tour Down Under
The Tour Down Under teams classification has so far eluded the Dutch squad, however Brown is confident in this year's line-up with World Under 23 Road Race champion Matthews not the only rider to get excited about.
"We've got another young neo pro here called Coen Vermeltfoort, who from the reports I've got from Tom Leezer who's been training with him for the last month, he's just being going unreal – the numbers he's been putting out in sprints are just phenomenal," Brown said.
"We've got [Pieter]Weening and Laurens Ten Dam for the harder stages. 'Bling' [Matthews] should be able to get over Willunga provided he hasn't gone too deep during the week but he's still young and got a bit to learn as well. The team doesn't want to put pressure on such a young guy in his first race."
While Matthews on paper appears to be for the form rider for Rabobank in Adelaide, Brown scoffed at suggestions that his young team-mate could be team leader for the opening race on the Pro Tour calendar.
"I've got 11 years experience as a professional so that has to come into consideration," he said.
A win over Greipel is a win to savour
Brown admits that he wasn't at his best in 2010, coming away from the European season with just the one win under his belt at the Tour of Austria in July.
That victory on stage 8, will give the fiery Australian some confidence heading into the Tour Down Under. Left in his wake were André Greipel, and Ben Swift who will be riding for Omega Pharam-Lotto and Team Sky respectively in Adelaide next week.
"Beating Greipel is good at any time of the year," Brown reflected. "It's a big deal. He's won 20-odd races each year for the last two years."
Brown has spent a fair bit of time at the last few editions of the Tour Down Under on Greipel's wheel and while it's not the 31 year-old's favourite place in the world, it has given him a unique perspective on just what sprint rival Mark Cavendish can expect.
"It's going to be fun to watch," Brown said of the highly anticipated clash. "Greipel's good all year and the last few years he's been incredible here. I can't see Cavendish coming near Greipel but hopefully I can beat them all."
2010 was a year where positives were hard to come by for Brown who describes the period as "weird."
"My off-season training was really good all-round but I just didn't have that top end speed - that final zip," Brown told Cyclingnews. "I could do a longer sprint at 65-66km/h but I could get to 68, 69-70. I just didn't have that last little bit. So that's what I was lacking.
"I could get over the climbs and get to finish - I finished the Tour of Italy for example. So I changed as a rider I guess. I've tried to fix that up."