Australia’s Matthew Wilson has secured a one year contract to ride for Jonathan Vaughters’ Garmin-Transitions squad in 2010. The 32-year-old has been recruited as a domestique for the team’s Spring Classics hopefuls and to work for key sprinter Tyler Farrar.
“It’s been a long couple of months with lots of back and forth but it’s finally worked out alright,” said Wilson. “We’ve had a talk about my program and what my role within the team will be. They’re bringing me predominately for the classics to support the other guys and to work with Tyler for the sprint stages.
“Until we sort out what’s going on whether I lead him out or working for him in the stages somehow, but I worked for years with Baden Cooke there and sort of know the job, so exactly how my role fits in at the finishes I’m not quite sure yet,” he added.
Wilson hopes the ride with Garmin-Transitions will see him return to a Grand Tour’s stages for the first time since the 2005 Giro d’Italia. Despite the Grand Tour drought, Wilson says he’s not only a stronger rider now than he was while riding for Française des Jeux back then, but is also hungrier.
“More than ever,” he said. “One thing going to America for a couple of years will do for you is bring on a bit of desire. It’s either going to make you or break you as far as your motivation goes.”
Wilson has spent the past two seasons riding for North American squad Team Type 1. He was thrown a lifeline by the outfit in late 2007 as Wilson’s career looked set to be destroyed when his Unibet.com squad became a pawn in the political battle between cycling’s governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI), and the trio of Grand Tour organisers.
“After what happened at Unibet I was scratching around for a contract even in December and I thought I was going to have a forced retirement, but I got an opportunity to go with Team Type 1 in America,” he recalled. “It was never what I wanted to do, I never wanted to go to America, but I was sort of stuck there.
“After two years there I thought ‘well, I don’t want to go back there, I want to go back to Europe or look at other things’,” added Wilson. “So to get the opportunity to go back [to Europe] now, to have a team that’s finally got a bit of faith in me and has stepped up and given mean a deal, it’s…I’m very happy. I really want to return that faith.”
Wilson admitted there were times when he thought all hope of returning to Europe was lost while racing predominately in the United States of America. His attitude, a reputation as a workhorse and friendship with Garmin-Slipstream sport director Matthew White would eventually return Wilson from the collapse of the Unibet.com squad back to European racing with a ProTour outfit.
“It’s hard to see when you’re over there [USA] and you’re racing these little races, at the same time sitting around watching the races you used to do on television it’s very hard to imagine how it’s going to come about,” said Wilson. “I knew that people know what I can do; there’s no animosity amongst the riders and people I have contact with in Europe. Everyone knows I could do the job, it’s just a matter of finding a place.
“I was quietly confident that eventually someone would step up and find me a place, but sometimes it just seems a bit hopeless,” he added. “You’ve just got to keep your head on, keep believing that it will happen and it did.”
"Matt will be adding a very large wealth of experience to our team having raced tirelessly for years along side green Jersey winner Baden Cooke in all the biggest races on the circuit," said Garmin Directeur Sportif Matt White. "His knowledge of the Northern classics and his experience in the stressful art of lead outs combined with his selfless team attitude gives us an athlete who can be sent to any race on the calendar and will always make his presence felt."
While racing in the USA might not have suited Wilson’s desires, he spoke passionately about his time with Team Type 1. Having overcome health problems in the form of Hodgkins disease himself, Wilson described his experience with the team, which helps create awareness about diabetes, as inspirational.
“I was really happy with my time at Team Type 1 during those two years,” he said. “What I saw and what I learned about people with diabetes and how they coped with it was really inspirational. I really enjoyed and learned a lot from my two years there with them.”
After recovering from Hodgkins disease Wilson returned to riding in 2001 and won the Australian Open Road Championship just three years later in 2004.