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Cameron Wurf (Liquigas-Cannondale) is ready to make his Tour Down Under bow.
Late call-up to ProConti outfit should lead to individual resurgence
"I had always been planning on staying with Liquigas and following my broken rib there was a breakdown in communication between by agent and the team, which basically resulted in some confusion," Wurf told Cyclingnews. "The position which I thought was going to be there wasn't."
It was a nightmare end to a largely forgettable season with his ambitions to ride in a second grand tour were shattered on two separate occasions - a stomach virus returned at the Critérium du Dauphiné, after it was initially contracted at the Tour of California which ruled Wurf out of the Tour de France and then a slow-to-heal fractured rib then put an end to any thought of racing the Vuelta a Espana.
Fast forward to mid-January and it was finally confirmed that Wurf would be joining good friend and fellow-Tasmanian Will Clarke at UCI ProConti outfit, Champion System and he was rushed to Hainan for the team's inaugural training camp.
"I didn't start looking for a team until very late in the piece, just in the hope that it would work out with Liquigas," Wurf explained. "I guess I was a little bit nervous."
In fact Champion System, through general manager Ed Beamon via Genesys Wealth Advisers team director Andrew Christie-Johnson, was the only team that the 28-year-old former Olympic rower contacted.
"It's really exciting," said Wurf of the move to cycling's first Asian-based ProConti squad. "Joining Champion System is something I'm very motivated about.
"When I'm home in Tasmania in the off-season I always enjoy coaching and being a part of some mentoring programs, particularly in rowing and more recently with cycling with kids. In signing with Champion System I have a goal of trying to help some of the Asian riders develop, although I know I'm not highly skilled in the cycling area, hopefully some of my other skills on a sporting front can hopefully be of some assistance to the team and I can be a part of the growth of a pretty exciting project."
Time for a slight change in the game
Beamon is hopeful that Wurf will be a key player when it comes to the fledgling team's general classification capability and in turn be a vehicle to showcase his individual talents in the shorter stages races and hillier one day races, with grand tour invites unlikely.
"It's a really different year looking ahead for me, because I'll be expected to be more of a team leader as opposed to being the dish pig that I've been for the past couple of years," Wurf said.
With Wurf feeling that his time trialling ability has become "stagnated" in recent seasons following his win at the 2007 Oceania Championships, 2012 got off to reasonable start with a competitive result (6th in the hottest field ever assembled) at the Australian Road Nationals time trial at Learmonth. Wurf had opted out of the road race a two days prior on the basis that he had only been training for a few weeks.
"I thought I'd just save my energy for the time trial," Wurf recalled to Cyclingnews. "As it turned out, I felt a hell of a lot better after the time trial so I wish I'd done the road race, if nothing else for a bit of blow out. That's alright, I'll learn. I definitely won't be missing out on it again next year."
Wurf's first race for Champion System will be the 10-stage Tour of Taiwan in mid-March going straight to Europe for the VDK-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde with perhaps some smaller stage races on the agenda in northern France and Belgium, and then all things going well for the team, the Amgen Tour of California.
Wurf's start in the Tour of Turkey, where he finished 5th on general classification in 2011, is still a matter of debate as he explained despite it being a highlight of last season.
"Ed [Beamon] was at sixes and sevens about it because I went good there but then struggled at California – it's a fair bit of travel and then time zone changes... We'll just have to weigh it all up and it will depend a lot on invitations," he explained.
Despite the change in teams, some things won't change for Wurf, like his Italian base at the Australian European Training Centre in Varese, and his regular training partner Ivan Basso with the pair planning to work together in their race preparation.
"At the moment I'll be a bit of a leader in this team but I'm under no illusions - there's a lot of great riders in the peloton," Wurf said. "My goal was always just to work for the big captains and aim to become a more important worker for them. Certainly at the moment my [long-term] goals don't go much further than being a top domestique."