Australian U23 Road Race Champion, Jordan Kerby, has returned early from an up and down season in Europe to race the Tour of Tasmania with Budget Forklifts. The tenth round of the Subaru National Road Series looks to be Kerby's last race as he closes the door on a season that has not gone completely to plan.
Kerby started his 2013 campaign last November as he set his sights on the U23 Australian Road Championships in January. Kerby won the prologue at the Herald Sun Tour and soon after won the U23 road title to cap a barnstorming ten days that assured Kerby a spot with the Uni-SA National Team to race the Tour Down Under. As he told Cyclingnews, however, the momentum soon came to a halt.
"I went to Europe the day after TDU, didn't get much of a break or anything and they said our first race was Vuelta Mexico," explained Kerby. "And so we were in a training camp for that, I was in the cold weather for two months training for that and then they said 'oh yeah, that one's cancelled.'
"But that was not the team's fault, that was the race organisation's fault. We'd signed up to race and we just never heard anything from them."
With the first blunder the responsibility of race organisers, not the team, Kerby and his Australian teammate Mitchell Lovelock-Fay, remained confident of a strong season to come. With enough of a salary to survive on and training camps at Lake Garda, Italy, the two settled in for a decent block of training with their next goal, Tour of Morocco, not coming until April.
"After Morocco we went to live in Denmark," said the 21-year-old. "We spent the majority of our time in Herning, about three hours from Copenhagen. I did spend about eight weeks at Lake Garda in Italy, mainly for training camps and that was a really nice place."
Rasmussen remaining on the periphery
Trying to find some regularity proved to be a difficult task for the team as it sought to distance itself from the admission to doping by team captain and founder, Michael Rasmussen, back in January. Having started the team with personal sponsor Christina Design London after his return from an initial doping sanction, Michael Rasmussen was deeply ensconced in the team's management. In 2013, Kerby got the impression that although Rasmussen was officially removed as a rider, he still retained a level of ownership in the decision making.
"He couldn't have much to do with the team after he admitted to doping in January," explained Kerby. "So from a perspective of the team we didn't have a lot to do with him. Personally, we saw him a little bit because we lived near him when we were in Italy.
"But when he was with the team I think he made a lot of the big decisions."
Feeling the fatigue
The ten days of racing in Morocco provided Kerby with a fourth on the sixth stage, but soon after he started to feel the effects of going full gas since November.
"We did a Tour in Poland but it was May and I'd been going flat-out since November and I started feeling quite bad on the bike, so I had to take a bit of downtime," said Kerby. "So I went to stay at Heppy's [Michael Hepburn's] place in Girona for three weeks and that really helped me get things back together."
June proved fruitful for Kerby with 16 days of racing including a podium finish on the second stage of Tour of Korea. Soon after, however, his season ground to an inexplicable halt.
"June was really good, I got to do Tour of Estonia, a 2.1, Tour of Korea, a 2.2, and also another tour in Poland at the end of June," he said. "I got to do 16 race days in June. But since then I've only had two or three race days, the second half of the year has been really quiet unfortunately.
"The team centres itself around getting selected for Tour of Denmark and then they didn't get selected. So it kind of almost shut down from there […] the racing was a lot less extensive and I thought I could probably get more race days in Australia.
"They didn't stop racing or anything, but there was no UCI racing until this week when they were at [Tour of] China. I thought I might as well come home."
Making ends meet
Given his salary was contingent upon remaining in Europe with the team, his decision to depart from Denmark meant that Kerby was leaving financial security behind. But with help from Budget Forklifts' manager, Cam Watt, Kerby knew he could make ends meet.
"I came back to Australia with no bike, no job, no car, looking for a place to stay, and Cam [Watt] helped me out," explained Kerby. "I knew Cam pretty well from last year because he lives in Brisbane. I just hit him up for a ride and he really saved my arse; giving me a bike to use, taking me down to Tasmania, I got some kit, some shoes, so he has pretty much salvaged the back end of my season.
"Since I've been back in Australia and I'm not on salary or anything so I've been working 20-25 hours a week, but I've been able to train around that."
Appreciative for the support he has received back in Brisbane, Kerby is not chasing glory in Tasmania, and may pass up a spot in the races that follow if there are other Budget Forklifts riders who are more motivated to race.
"Look I'm not too sure [on my form for Tasmania]," said Kerby. "Tassie is definitely not a race that's suitable to my style but if I can be a workhorse for one of the GC guys this week then I'm happy to do that to get some race days in.
"I'm still undecided on racing Warny [Melbourne to Warrnambool] or Grafton [to Inverell] because they've got a lot of good guys at Budget who are gunning to do some racing, so Tassie could be my last race for the season."
Although he readily admits that "it didn't really work out over there to put it simply," Kerby remains grateful for the opportunities he received. And with a team secured for next year –that he will announce soon- Kerby will shortly be closing the book on a tumultuous year that he believes he is all the better for.