Europe is home to the most prestigious races cycling has to offer; Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold Race, Milano – Sanremo – take your pick, they are all there. Yet young Australian and New Zealand riders are flocking to race in the United States of America, Cyclingnews' Greg Johnson finds out what's behind the trend setting rider's decisions to buck the traditional route.
Earth's 243 other countries could learn a lot from the way the United States of America does sport. It's a nation where sporting team budgets often exceed the gross domestic product of small countries, where outrunning the law on moonshine runs forms the base of a multi-billion dollar sport. Yes, the almighty US of A knows that sport is a business and like any business it must build, market and sell a product (being entertainment); its approach to cycling is no different.
While certainly a factor, it's not just the money associated with sport on US soil that's drawn the signatures of up and coming cyclists from Down Under to American Continental and Professional Continental squads. For some it's the lifestyle, others the flexibility and for a few it is a financially viable alternate to slogging it out in the lower ranks in Europe in hopes of being noticed by a ProTour or top European squad. Whatever the draw, the riders from the land down under have given the US peloton a distinctly different accent.
New Zealand's Glen Chadwick isn't the only rider from Down Under on his Navigators Insurance Professional Continental squad - he has two Australians, Hilton Clarke and Ben Day, also riding for the team. Chadwick, who has raced for teams in Europe, Asia and now America, said he would find it difficult returning to the mentality of a European squad having raced in the US. "With Navigators I have the best of both worlds, I reside in Belgium, ride for an American team who bases themselves in Belgium three of four months each year, so I can live at home," he said. "I get to race here in Europe and do some really hard and good racing, then jump over the pond and race flat out in some pretty cool races throughout America."
Like Chadwick, Clarke sees a lot of positive reasons for Down Under riders to join the American scene. "In Europe, if you don't make the cut, that is it," said Clarke. "You can race for nothing and survive on baked beans and muesli or you can come to the US, the land of opportunity. With so many new teams starting and Australians having such a good reputation here, there seems to be many spots to start your career on a base wage.
To read the full feature on Australians in America, click here.