Australian Luke Davison has got his racing ambitions back on track – literally. The 24-year-old Sydneysider is back in Australia and focused on racing the team pursuit, the track event in which he represented Australia to win gold at this year's world championships in Cali, Colombia and Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Davison returned to Australia just two weeks ago after backing up from his track success in Glasgow to race as a stagiaire with the BMC World Tour team.
It was a challenging experience for Davison. However, he learned a lot. It also helped him to decide on channelling his energy into the team pursuit in which he won world title gold this year with Alex Edmondson, Glenn O'Shea, Mitchell Scotson and Miles Mulhern, and hopes to again at the world title titles in Paris on February 18-22; with a view to repeating the feat at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
"I wouldn't pass up winning the Commonwealth Games for anything," Davison told Cyclingnews of his Glasgow Games success in which he, O'Shea and Edmondson and Jack Bobridge won gold.
"It was a great stepping stone and almost a bit of a dress rehearsal for the Olympics.
The BMC experience …
Davison's experience with BMC may not have ended with a contract. But the 2012 National Road Series champion has no regrets. "It was an eye opener," said Davison who earlier also raced for Azerbaijan's Continental Synergy Baku Cycling Project road team before rejoining the Australian track team for their Glasgow campaign and then BMC in mid-August.
Davison also rode for the Australian national team winning the Dutch Omloop der Kempen in May.
"Everyone knows that World Tour is at a hard level," Davison said. "But … after coming off Commonwealth Games I was already playing catch up from the get go.
"I tried to learn as much as possible and really enjoyed my time with the team."
Bu Davison immediately realised how great a challenge he was to face. He failed to finish his first race, the Arctic Race of Norway on August 14-17, and met similar fates at the Tour du Poitou-Charentes, Grand Prix de Wallonie (outside of the time limit), Primus Classic Impanis, Grand Prix d'Isbergues, Binche-Chimay-Binche and Paris Tours.
"A few crashes here and there – and getting sick after Norway didn't really help," he said. "I lacked a lot of base. I was alright in a few races, but in the longer ones … when you get up to five or six hours, it's a very different ball park, especially when you come up against a lot of riders who have just come off the world championships."
It was after returning to Australia that Davison decided to re-focus on the track. "I see how much it takes to not only make it into a road team, but to be successful," he said. "In the NRS we might only race every month, or you might have two races in a month. In Europe, I was very naïve. But I was surprised how much racing they do. "You race almost every weekend – not only racing, but travelling to and from races."
Davison said BMC were still supportive, especially high performance director Allan Peiper and sports scientist Daniel Healey with whom he lived in Fribourg, Germany and has now joined Tinkoff-Saxo. But he still missed having regular training partners.
"It gets tough when you are not winning," Davison said. "It's very easy to fall into that rut of just focusing in the negatives. It is a tough enough sport as it is, even when you are on cloud nine."
From London World Cup to the worlds …
Davison is currently at the AIS in Adelaide training. At round one of the World Cup at Guadalajara in Mexico from Friday to Sunday, O'Shea and Scotson will race in the team pursuit event with junior world champions Sam Welsford, Daniel Fitter and Alex Porter. But Davison plans to be back in the team pursuit for the World Cup in London from December 5-7 and peaking at the world titles in France in February.
"You have to be committed to the program. If you do that you will reap the rewards," Davison said. "But if you do it kind of half hearted - which I was kind of doing - when you start cutting corners it definitely affects you when you get to race day."
Davison said the need for riders to be 100 per cent committed to team pursuit preparation has been heightened with the event schedule at the World Cup and world titles now requiring three rounds in one day; as per Olympic Games – those being a qualifying round in the morning and semi-final and final in the second session.
"When you are racing three team pursuits in one day everyone is going to have to be at a very, very high level to even be there," he said.
"I don't know if it is taking away or making it better from a spectator's point of view. But it will be interesting to see how teams cope with it. Look at qualifying now and you see a massive drop off [after by] a lot of nations - or they might just match their qualifying times – whereas the Aussies are re-known to always go above and beyond.
"Throw a third [race] in the mix and it's almost unchartered territory. No one knows."
While Australia will go to London hoping to win, their focus will be the world titles.
"Anything can happen, but it is still a month and a bit out from worlds, so I don't think everyone is going to be firing on all cylinders," Davison said of London.
Rupert Guinness is a sports writer for The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media)