With track palmares that most riders would dream of and a fast developing career on the road, Leigh Howard can hardly complain that his professional cycling career has not been fruitful. However, now that his key event on the boards, the Madison, has been removed from the Olympic programme, Howard will participate in the track world championships in Melbourne as his last non-road event of 2012.
At just 22 years of age Howard is in his third year in the WorldTour, and after two seasons with HTC-Highroad, where he mainly held a lead-out role, the Australian is hoping to start winning a little bit more in 2012 with GreenEdge.
"I’ve definitely spoken a lot with Whitey, and I see myself as the second sprinter behind Gossy," said Howard to Cyclingnews. "There are a lot of really good riders like Allan Davis and Aidis Kruopis as well, but I’ll definitely be one of the top sprinters in the team and have quite a free role for most of my races.
"I’ve got a lot of work to do to prove that I deserve to be there, but I’ve said time and time again that my main goal for this season, that I just want to win bike races. It doesn’t matter which ones they are I just want to be back on the winner’s podium – that’s the next step to being a top sprinter."
Howard made a big personal landmark last year when he rode his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Espana, after an at times frustrating year with crashes and injury.
He’s currently in Adelaide for the Santos Tour Down Under, the debut for his team in the WorldTour. Howard is not quite at his best this early in the season and as such will be doing his best to help Gossy in the sprint and Gerrans win the overall. After that he’ll turn his eyes to his own personal ambitions.
"We’re going to wait and see how Gossy fairs in the first few stages. If he’s got those sprint legs that we all know him for," said Howard. "My role here first and foremost is to help the team win bike races.
"I’ve improved in a lot of areas since I’ve first started. Mainly being my strength and my physical maturity as a bike rider. It’s about putting that all to use now."