By Anthony Tan
One would have thought good early season form always bodes well for the rest of the year, but for Ryan Cox, that hasn't been the case. "The last two years, I've had two good years early on," he says, "but maybe raced too well early in the season. I just said [to myself] I can't afford to have a good early season and do nothing the rest of the year, and that is what's pretty much happened."
The 26 year-old has made a name for himself at southeast Asia's premiere cycling event, the Tour de Langkawi, finishing second overall in 2004 before victory a year later. Having 'been there and done that', coupled with his change of plans, Cox has been happy to play a support role up till now, which has seen him largely at the service of his former Barloworld team-mate David George.
However, with George scoring an eleventh hour deal with Spanish outfit Relax-Gam and his own contract up for renewal at the end of this year - not to mention the change of team manager from fellow South African John Robertson to hard-nosed Italian Claudio Corti - Cox should now be thinking about his own personal interests.
"I think he's [Corti] good for the team and the team wants to go forward, so we will see, time well tell," said Cox to Cyclingnews, still having mixed emotions about the management overhaul at the end of last year. "I'm sure it will be good; the planning's good, the structure's good, and already the planning of the team has been a lot better this year. Already, we are seeing things, just little things, that have been a lot better than it had been before, so that also helps."
Cox said these words back in early February, when Barloworld was still banking on a spot at the Giro d'Italia. However, wildcards for all three Grand Tours have now been announced - and Barloworld wasn't in any one of them. Should the team or any of its riders wish to secure a place on the next year's ProTour, it has now become all the more important for each member to perform consistently throughout the season.
The good news is that Cox's form has improved of late. Solid riding mixed with natural aggression led to a third place finish at the Giro del Capo, before forging the winning break at the Commonwealth Games road race last Sunday, again with George, but unfortunately for the South Africans, Australian Rabobank rider Mathew Hayman was unstoppable that day.
"Yeah, it's a big year for a lot of us; not only me, but cycling at the moment," Cox conceded. "There are a lot of teams knocking at the door and if you're not in the ProTour, it's really hard to get in. So a lot of guys want to be in there, be in the ProTour and do those big races. And that's exactly where I am at the moment, so it's a big year for me in Europe and I just hope I can do something there and get into the bigger teams."
Look for the feature interview on Ryan Cox next week on Cyclingnews.