As much as it came as big news that another young Australian cycling talent took over the lead in the Santos Tour Down Under from compatriot Matt Goss after stage four, Cameron Meyer, 23, was quick to state that he wouldn't be doing so without the help of his teammate Matt Wilson from Garmin-Cervélo.
"I don't think we would have stayed away without Matt there," Meyer commented after the finish. "He really saved my legs a little bit. He really drove it in the last kilometres to make sure that we did stay away. He gave me the free run to have a go in the sprint and in the end I had the legs on the day to come over the Vacansoleil guy and win the race."
Wilson was the driver of the six-man breakaway including his teammate and later winner Meyer, Laurens ten Dam (Rabobank), Blel Kadri (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Rob Ruijgh and Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil). "Normally our breakaway had no chance to succeed," Wilson noted. "We rode smart with a bit of luck as well. I made the group ride as slow as possible. We kept calm and played with the time checks." The peloton's charge eventually came too late.
Wilson learned the job when he rode for Française des Jeux from 2002 to 2005. The road captain of the French team was Jacky Durand who often said: "Cycling would be boring if the strongest rider was always the winner." The 1992 Tour of Flanders victor knew how to disturb established tactics with his numerous breakaways. He became a master to regulate the speed of the breakaway in order to avoid the chasers to catch them exactly when they wanted.
"We kept strength for the very end, then I rode flat out for Cam until 500 metres to go," Wilson described. "That's my job. To have Cam winning here is just as good as if it was a win for me. I'm really happy with the outcome today. At Garmin-Cervélo, we have a good bunch of experienced guys and young talented riders. Cam is a super star. He's got an incredible engine and a good head on his shoulders as well."
When the merger between Garmin and Cervélo was announced at the end of August, Wilson feared there wouldn't be any space left for him in the new super team. But team manager Jonathan Vaughters was well-aware that talent can only develop into results with tactical science that few road captains are able to bring into a group.
Wilson, 33, retired from cycling twelve years ago due to Hodgkins disease. He came back, turned pro in Europe, was left with no contract and migrated to the US on the domestic scene but has now made himself indispensable for Garmin when the team eventually signed him. Wilson can be seen as one of the best riders in the world for the role of road captain, to be compared with his compatriots Neil Stephens during his time and more recently Matt White, who is now his directeur sportif and the new coordinator for the Australian national team at the Worlds and the Olympics.
Following their path, Wilson probably also has a future as a directeur sportif.