RadioShack heads into the Tour of Utah with two stagiaires in their ranks – Kiwi George Bennett and Australian Dale Parker, the latter telling Cyclingnews that he was shocked by his inclusion in the team despite an impressive year to date.
"I knew I had some good results but it was still a surprise being so young – I only turned 19 in May," he explained via phone prior to the teams presentation. "It's just starting to feel real now, I've just got to the motel and got my kit and went for a ride with George [Bennett]. It's starting to feel a bit more real. It's going to be good to meet all the guys and I'm enjoying myself."
Parker claimed the Trek-Livestrong team's first win of the 2011 season, with his shock six second victory over a field of veterans in the 26.6 kilometre time trial at the Tour of the Gila in April, a moment he claims was a turning point in his road career. Weeks earlier, the South Australian rider had crashed out of Redlands resulting in badly bruised calf, restricting his training. But when it came to the time trial, everything fell into place.
"I knew I felt good, my warm up was good and I thought that I could be on a good one," he recalled. "It was weird, once I came back I was in the hot seat for maybe a half and hour waiting for some of the bigger guys to come in and I somehow managed to hold the fastest time all day. So I took a fair bit of confidence out of it. I knew I was strong in the time trial in juniors but I think I've sort of made myself aware that I can be a good time triallist at that next level and that's something I want to try and specialise in after London."
Parker went on to finish second overall, 3:17 behind Francisco Mancebo (Realcyclist.com).
When it comes to these next two races, Parker said that he's planning on soaking up as much of the experience and knowledge as he can.
"It's going to be a pretty tough Tour and there's going to be some long days," he admitted. "Hopefully Levi's[Leipheimer] going well and it looks like he's going to be pretty gee'd up for it. There's some pretty big names in this team so for both myself and George, it's going to be a bit of a learning curve as well"
Next stop: London
The USA Pro Cycling Challenge will be Parker's last outing on the road before he heads back to Australia to focus on his preparation for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Parker was a member of the men's pursuit team that won gold at the Delhi Commonwealth Games last year, along with Jack Bobridge, Michael Hepburn, Cameron Meyer and is looking to take back his spot after Luke Durbridge slotted into the team which won gold at the World Championships earlier this year.
"It's going to be tough just to make the team; I think that's going to be the hardest part apart from trying to beat the Brits," Parker said.
Unlike a lot of Australians, Parker first took to the road before boards and the decision to focus on the former over the last 12 months was not without substance. A drink driving incident late last year forced the teenager to mature and so he's found himself living a solitary existence in Boulder with his focus solely on his road career.
"Over the last year I've grown up a lot being with Trek-Livestrong – it's a really professional set-up and there's not a great lot of difference to the ProTour when you think about it," he explained. "It's one of the biggest Under 23 teams in the world."
For now, Parker is "living a childhood dream", telling Cyclingnews that he "just can't wait to race" with the Tour of Utah getting underway with a two kilometre Park City Prologue.
"Now it's all finally happening so I'm really looking forward to trying not only to be professional but try and take my form from Under 23 level into the ProTour over the next couple of years."