By Anthony Tan
Now back in Australia, Cyclingnews diarist Trent Wilson is enjoying a good run of form. The Selle Italia-Colombia rider, along with his equally larrikin Aussie team-mate, Russell Van Hout, returned from Europe early last month, deciding it was best to finish their season with a solid block of racing Down Under, beginning with the final race of the Tattersall's Cup Series, and finishing with the Herald Sun Tour and Tour of Queensland.
"That was a bit of a disaster, really," said Wilson about Tatt's Cup Tour of the Murray River, where he was judged most aggressive rider on the ninth stage before finishing in third place that day. "Russ and I were thinking we were going to make some good coin, but to be honest, we were marked by everybody; we couldn't move anywhere until the last day, when the tour was nearly wrapped up."
Despite this, 'Willo', as he's known to his mates, had his eye on a few other races, one being the Grafton to Inverell classic two weeks later. Race conditions were described the toughest in the 45-year history of the 228 kilometre race, with a howling headwind and a winner's time an hour slower than that seen in recent years, but Wilson was undeterred, creating the final five-man selection with 20 kilometres to go on the climb of Wire Gully. Though as he admits, the lack of a sprint put paid to his chances, especially going up against Health Net's Greg Henderson, a previous scratch race world champion, who took the race comfortably from two young Victorian Institute of Sport riders, with Wilson in fourth.
"I rode better than the results showed... I just can't sprint!" he laughs, albeit a little nervously.
The nervous chuckle may also have something to do with the fact that Wilson is on the hunt for a new team next year. After Selle Italia-Colombia's brilliant performance at this year's Giro d'Italia, which saw the team earn three stage wins, the mountains classification and a place on the final podium - and which Wilson and Van Hout were a part of - it seems direttore sportivo Gianni Savio is in the midst of a little 'restructuring', with his eyes on making the ProTour in 2006. Sure, the restructure is understandable to some extent, but it's also the harsh reality of a domestique who's rarely given the chance to ride for himself.
"Same as every year, pretty tough," Wilson said when asked about the market conditions in securing a contract over in Europe. "If you're in Division 2 and you're not in the ProTour... if you're not Baden Cooke or Stuart O'Grady, it's pretty tough every year."
Which makes next week's Herald Sun Tour all the more important. Three years ago, Wilson took his best-ever result in the race, finishing fifth overall and claiming the mountains classification prize, with two top-10 places before that, so the lanky Parramatta rider is no stranger to solid results in the race. This year, he'll be riding for a local team based out of Sydney, Caravello/FRF Couriers, comprised of a number of youngsters along with experienced New Zealander Gordon McCauley. "I've always ridden against him, but he's one of those guys you hate to race [against] because he's always aggressive from k zero, so he's good to have," remarks Wilson about the veteran Kiwi.
"I've shown enough form for them [the team] to have some confidence in me, so we'll see what happens. I'd love a top five on general classification, and/or the king of the mountains jersey or a stage win. I'd been there [winning the mountains classification] and been close [to a stage win] a few times, but I've never won a stage there.
"Out training, I've been feeling average, but as soon as I pin a number on, I've been travelling well. All of a sudden, the lights come on, and I feel pretty good. It's [the Sun Tour] a pretty hard tour, so it could suit me if the form's there."