By Anthony Tan
Up against the best in the country, victory in the Australian open road championship not surprisingly gave 20 year-old William Walker plenty of confidence, even if the rules didn't allow him to wear the elite men's green and gold striped jersey.
A week later, and now riding with some of the best in the world at the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, finishing fourth overall and wearing the best young rider's jersey was another boost. Yet despite this, one of the country's biggest future stage race hopes is staying put in Rabobank's Continental team this season, preferring to stay "chilled" for another year.
"Well, last year I had a good season; I came seventh in Tour de l'Avenir and second at [the U23] world's and had quite a few other good results, too, but I didn't feel I had quite the level to do pro races all the time. I was always finishing in the top 30 or something, but I'd rather work on a better level this year," Walker told Cyclingnews in a recent interview.
His silver medal in Madrid last year created a piece of cycling history, becoming the best-performing under-23 Australian rider at a world road championship and equalling Robbie McEwen's second place at Zolder in 2002, where Italian Mario Cipollini became the elite men's world champion.
"I trained really hard in July, and felt like I deserved to do something well; I didn't get a win in the second half of the year, but I got a lot of good placings," Walker said about his lead-up to the world's.
"The guy [Dmytro Grabovskyy] that won it deserved it, and second I was pretty happy with - really happy, actually... it was a good end to the season. If I had lost by a millimetre, I probably would have been a bit disappointed but I lost by quite a lot; I can't even remember what it was, 27 seconds or something."
Ukrainian Grabovskyy is another who is choosing to bide his time in the Continental ranks for one more season, and like Walker, will aspire to the ProTour in 2007. "I am not really ready yet; I want another year before stepping up," said the 20 year-old after his world championship win.
This year, as well as targeting the Tour de l'Avenir and world championships, Walker is also hoping to make the Commonwealth Games team, but apart from that, "I'm just going to try and go well in every race I do - it's as simple as that," he said. "I'll probably have a bit easier time in July in terms of training, but [my objective] is just go well in every race. Except for the ones with cobbles - I'll take those ones easy," joked the Victorian cycling prodigy.
"I've got plenty of time: the Rabobank team's really good, and they didn't put too much pressure on me when I wasn't going that well last year. They just let me do what I wanted, so they're pretty cool and all the guys on the team are good; I'm chilled out and try and have another year with quite a lot of wins in slightly easier races."
Look out for the interview with Will Walker tomorrow on Cyclingnews.