Having hit the ground running last year with Cannondale-Drapac, Paddy Bevin is taking a different approach to his second year in the WorldTour as he turns his attention to playing a key role for the team across the Classics.
Tenth on debut at the Tour Down Under and third in the Paris-Nice prologue last year were early-season highlights for the 25-year-old but broken ribs at the 'race to the sun' and a last minute call up to the Vuelta a Espana served as sharp reality checks of what life at the top is really like.
"This season is a bit different for me, I have started a lot slower. I stayed in Europe late and it's the first time I have raced properly in four months so it is a long break and it's been a slow build," Bevin told Cyclingnews at the Tour Down Under, his first race since a final day DNF at September's Eneco Tour.
"I have to keep developing. Last year for me was tough it was a real shock coming into the WorldTour. I had some great results early on and then obviously some injuries and crashes. You have to deal with that, it is part of cycling. I think overall, there is a lot of work to do in developing as a bike rider. As far as the WorldTour goes, I feel inexperienced at that level so it is about developing there and these races are big for that."
Bevin, who raced in America and Australia before sealing his move to the WorldTour, got his first taste of the Classics last year at Gent-Wevelgem and one day of racing at the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. In 2017, Cannondale-Drapac head to the Classics with new signings Sep Vanmarcke and Taylor Phinney as captains and two riders that Bevin believes can deliver success to the men in Argyle.
"It’s a trial by fire essentially. I am going straight into the deep end, I am doing all the northern Classics in Belgium and France," said Bevin of his upcoming race schedule.
"At the moment, it is about getting there and experiencing the racing. We have a genuine leader this year in Sep Vanmarcke who is a guy who can win so to be part of a squad that maybe wins a monument would be huge. I think that is what the team is aiming for this year."
Racing for the future
What his season holds beyonds the classics is currently unknown for Bevin who will reassess with the team during his "five or six" week break from racing. With his contract up at the end of the season, a strong Classics showing would help the New Zealander get on the front foot and be proactive in talks to secure his future.
"I know it probably going to sound cliché because everyone says it but it doesn't really make a difference to me. I want to race my bike and whether it is contract or no contract. You are putting absolutely everything you can into being the best bike racer you can," he said of his future and approach to contract talks. "Hopefully that is acknowledged and you just keep plugging away and not something that becomes later in the season."
"I enjoyed being part of this team and this team has been good to me so I guess we keep pushing away and like I said, hopefully it's not a surprise come later in the season," added Bevin.