Reigning Australian U23 national time trial and Oceania champion Damien Howson will step up to the professional ranks this season after the announcement of a multi-year deal with the Australian WorldTour squad Orica GreenEdge. Howson will step into the team as a stagiaire for the Tour of Utah in August after spending the 2013 season with the Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy where he took out the prologue at the Thüringen-Rundfahrt.
Howson has showed tremendous progression this season, having won the U23 national TT and finishing second in the road race, the 20-year-old received the call up for the Santos Tour Down Under where he raced for the Australian National Team. Another title at the Oceania championships followed by a couple of wins in Europe along with multiple placings including third-overall at Thüringen-Rundfahrt has earned the young rider a place in Australia’s only ProTeam.
"Damien has shown strong progression within our national program," said Orica GreenEdge sports director Matt White. "We've seen obvious improvements from him first with Jayco-AIS last year and then this year with the Jayco-AIS WorldTour Academy. He's ready to turn professional, and we're ready to support his development."
It’s a "dream come true" for last year’s bronze medallist in the U23 TT at the UCI Road World Championships. Stepping into a stagiaire role for the rest of the season is ideal for the South Australian who had already signaled his intentions to return to the World’s as a espoir in an attempt to claim the world TT title.
"The World Championships at the end of the year is my main focus. It's the one event I really want to win," Howson told Cyclingnews shortly after winning his national title earlier in the year.
"Many riders dream of racing in Europe, turning professional, riding in the WorldTour and eventually getting to do races the biggest races in the world like the Tour de France. After eight years of riding a bike, I'm on my way," said Howson in a team statement.
A strong all-rounder Howson, like many young professionals, has his eye on becoming a contender in the grand tours. However, he understands that stepping into the professional ranks will be a learning experience and is willing to be patient while his new squad guide him into the upper echelon of the sport.
"I hope to develop into an overall contender," said Howson. "My goal is to one day turn into a Grand Tour contender. Obviously I know there are a lot of small steps to take before that. I hope to focus on the small tours in my first two years with ORICA-GreenEDGE.
"I've steadily improved over the last few years. I've been able to deliver some big results this year, which has been pleasing. I've learned a lot about racing with the national team, and I'll learn even more racing with ORICA-GreenEDGE. I hope that I'm able to use my strengths and knowledge to help the team while they help me."