By Jean-François Quénet in Adelaide
Remember the rider from Ag2r who made the first breakaway of the 2005 Tour de France but crashed a few times and was pushed by his teammate Jean-Patrick Nazon in the neutral zone of stage 7? Being injured, Sylvain Calzati, the winner of the 2004 Tour de l'Avenir ahead of Thomas Lövkvist, had no choice but pull out and his season pretty much ended there.
Having stopped early last year, he wanted to start early this year. That's why he put his hands up for the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under. "I also wanted to see what Australia looks like," he said. "I love it. It's very similar to South Africa where I started my 2003 season with Barloworld. I've been here for one week now, riding four to five hours every day. The time I've spent on the saddle so far I couldn't have done it in France. With the traffic and the weather, it's more and more difficult to train at home."
Calzati hails from France's second biggest city of Lyon, the half way point between Paris and Nice. "I've clearly announced my goal for this year and it's Paris-Nice," he said firmly. "After winning the Tour de l'Avenir, it's logical to aim at something higher. Is Paris-Nice too high? At least I'll go for it with a great fighting spirit and the hope to perform well. I'm not looking at revenge after all the physical problems I had last year, but I want to be able to compete at 100 percent of my capacities. I'm happy that Ag2r shows the same confidence in me despite the troubles of last year."
In South Australia he'll be riding for Ag2r's leader Simon Gerrans. "I was surprised with him last year," Calzati added. "He was strong from the start to the end of the season, riding in the front at Flèche brabançonne, winning Tour du Finistère, GP Carnaghese in Italy and the Sun Tour, with a good show at the Tour de France. I know by experience that it's difficult to confirm but Simon can go very far and very high. He's a great guy and he's the one of us with the best abilities for the Tour Down Under since he was in the front at the Bay Crits already."