A cursory look at the former winners of the Australian men’s under 23 road race presents a who’s who of Australian cycling. Graeme Brown, Simon Gerrans, Rory Sutherland, Chris Sutton, Wes Sulzberger, Simon Clarke and Michael Hepburn are but a few of the esteemed names that have won the title in the last decade.
So for 22-year-old Ben Dyball, victory at the 2011 edition, should have been the catalyst that launched him on the path to a professional career. Then 21, Dyball bettered recent Jayco Herald Sun Tour winner Nathan Haas (Genesys Wealth Advisers) on the Buninyong course and was quickly recruited into the Jayco-AIS squad for what should have been the start to bigger and better things.
Instead – things have stalled. Despite some encouraging results in the Jayco-AIS’s racing program in Italy and France, Dyball has lacked that breakthrough moment. A podium or a win have been absent, and as the season draws to a close, the Blacktown native is in a position that would have seemed hard to believe just 9 months ago in January – not that he’s been discouraged.
"I’ve sent out my resume to a lot of teams but haven’t had much of a response," admitted Dyball to Cyclingnews. "I’ve come a long way this year under the Jayco-AIS squad, but when it’s come to racing, I’ve been really unlucky."
Cynics may argue that 'you make your own luck' but Dyball's 2011 season has had more than its' fair share of misfortune. At the 2.2U Ronde de l’Isard, Dyball's main goal for 2011, any chance of a good performance was derailed by food poisoning the night before the queen stage.
"I still made the key GC break on stage two, but had hunger flat on the final climb. I was pretty much running on empty because I'd been throwing up the night before. One moment you're right there and then you're not," said Dyball of the day that overall winner Kenny Elissonde stamped his authority on the climb to Superbagnères.
An unfortunate crash in the 2.NCup rated Toscana - Coppa delle Nazioni also did nothing to help him, with the climber forfeiting two minutes on an otherwise innocuous stage. Cruelly that would be the same margin he would end up down in the overall standings. As Dyball explained to Cyclingnews, it often seemed that every time he was putting together a run of form, something would arise to thwart him.
"Yeah it's been frustrating," he said. "But you can't let it get to you - the hypotheticals are just that - maybe I would've had some better results this year if things had have been different - but who knows? You just have to get on with it and look forward."
Not discouraged by circumstance
One of the key things to have kept him going is how he has performed against some of Europe’s best when things have clicked.
"At the end of the day, when the form has been there I’ve been able to climb really comfortably," said Dyball. "I was there climbing with the best in Italy and with riders from all over Europe. I think if anything that's made me realise that becoming a professional is an achievable goal, and one that I'm fully focused on pursuing."
That determination has spurred the Australian to continue pushing for a ride next year, and though a contract is currently not forthcoming for Dyball, he hasn’t given up hope.
"There’s still plenty of time for something to come through," said Dyball. "If it comes around to January then hopefully I can do something in the 2012 Australian Open Championships to put myself out there. If I can get a ride in the UniSA team at the Tour Down Under after that [like Tim Roe in 2010], that’d be ideal, but we’ll just have to see."