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Ben Grenda (Polygon Australia) salutes as he crosses the finish line in his Stage 4 victory at the FKG Tour of Toowoomba
Gippsland leader switches focus in 2013
Ben Grenda has lived bikes his whole life. Along with father Michael and grandfather Ronald, the Launceston-based 23-year-old has done a lot to cement the Grenda family name in Tasmanian and Australian cycling history.
Having contested the Subaru National Road (NRS) in previous years with the Huon-Genesys team (nee Praties), Grenda performed the rite of passage as he was shipped off to Belgium for a season. After a successful 12 months during 2011 with the Rock Werchter squad, Grenda's signature was sought by British team Rapha Condor-Sharp who were at that stage expanding their racing program to incorporate all of Europe and Asia for the 2012 season.
As Rapha secured a sponsorship deal with Team Sky, their involvement with their continental team was scaled back. As such, Grenda found himself on the periphery and faced a return to Australia for the 2013 season.
With the writing on the wall, Grenda changed plans and a full-time course studying Education at the University of Tasmania was the result.
After moving into the overall lead after day one of the Lakes Oil Tour of Gippsland, Cyclingnews caught up with Grenda to see how he fits his training in around his studies and to get his predictions for the rest of the race.
With Polygon Australia charged with defending a race lead for the first time, Grenda is not apprehensive about his team's plans for the coming days.
"We're [Polygon Australia] just here to and get on the podium as much as we can so I suppose getting yellow comes with that," he said. "Now we've got it we'll definitely try to defend it, and because we've got Huon-Genesys on the same time I'm sure we'll get some help from them as well."
As he has come from full-time racing in Europe to part-time racing in Australia, Grenda believes his recent results are simply a bonus now his attention is focussed elsewhere.
"Basically, the pressure is off now. I'm not trying to be a pro or anything, I'm just riding my bike for the fun of it," he stated. "I've got a pretty good little set-up now where I can get a few hours in around my schooling and I'm lucky enough to be able to get away to these races."
With less time doesn't necessarily come a barrage of interval training also, Grenda is "not doing anything too specific [in training] just tapping the legs over and racing club races... it seems to be working."
Grenda's secret this season comes perhaps in the base he has accumulated in previous years. This year, he believes he is reaping the benefits of many years hard work.
"I can come up quickly on form when I need to. After a few years the muscle memory is there and you can come back a bit quicker, it's certainly got to help," said Grenda. "I suppose the racing I've done [with Rapha Condor Sharp] it's just let me snivel a bit more and it helps me find my way around the wheels when I need to which is helping me run a drum."
And within the Polygon Australia team his experience is being put to good use as he attempts to help other young Tasmanian cyclists develop. But most importantly for him and his teammates, is simply that they all get along.
"We're all pretty good mates ... it is good to be riding with your mates!"
As for his predictions for today's rough and rolling 91.6km stage from Leongatha to Yinnar, Grenda is not overly optimistic.
"I'm a pretty big boy, I wouldn't say I climb too well so I'll just be trying to get over the climbs."