Cameron Wurf opted not to return home to Australia after the Cannondale Tuscany training camp in December, preferring to spend the holidays training in California so he will be ready for this week's Santos Tour Down Under. He will then continue to work hard during an intense block of training in Australia with an unusual, but carefully thought out early-season race programme that includes the Herald Sun Tour (February 5-9) and the Tour of Taiwan (March 9-13).
The friendly Tasmanian and former Olympic rower worked to help new teammate George Bennett and sprinter Elia Viviani on stage one of the Tour Down Under, finishing in the first chase group at 15 seconds, as ever, sacrificing his personal ambitions for the good of the team.
"I learnt last year that its important you can focus on races that suit you and you can do something in. So I'm not bothered about personal glory at the Tour Down Under but it's a great place to start the season," Wurf told Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview.
"What's more important is that the team will allow me to train in Australia for six weeks after Down Under so that I can do some real quality work before getting into the big, big races. We'll ride the Herald Sun Tour too and some guys will stay with me in Tasmania until they go to Paris-Nice and I ride the Tour of Taiwan with Basso. It's a great way to start the season."
New coach Sebastian Weber has listened to Wurf's request to race less and train better.
"When I train at home, the team knows I always train and do the work, I'm very structured and always turn up at races ready. We looked at why I got sick at the Giro and everyone accepted I need more time to train instead of using races to train," he said.
"That's a change for the Italian way of doing things. The team often thought racing to get fit would help me but I do better when I can train. It's a great show of faith from the team."
Wurf's race programme also include the Volta a Catalunya, a training camp at altitude in Tenerife and then the Giro d'Italia. There will be no Tour de France this year but it is one of his long-term goals.
"I'd love to ride the Tour de France sooner than later. I know perhaps that people back in Australia will judge my career on what I do in a Tour. This year I'm focused on helping Ivan," Wurf said loyally.
Riding for Basso
Wurf is one of Ivan Basso's inner-guard and a cornerstone of the Cannondale team. He lives in Gallarate, no far from Basso's home and is convinced that his 37 year-old training partner can be competitive in the Giro d'Italia despite the saddle sore problem that forced him to miss the Giro and his sudden retirement from the Vuelta due to the cold weather.
"I was really impressed with how focused he was on training for the Vuelta after his problems before the Giro. He looked like he was going to challenge for the podium. That was only a few months ago and so there's no reason why he can't challenge for the podium again this year," Wurf predicted.
"Of course the favourites for the Giro are all great riders, including fellow Tassie rider Richie Porte at Team Sky, but there's nobody who he can't beat. We'll have a strong team and the guys totally believe in Ivan for the Giro. He's definitely got a big year in him and could have other good years after that too."
A Cannondale work horse
Wurf is one of the work horses of the Cannondale and raced for 88 days in 2013. In the Grand Tour he becomes Ivan Basso's shadow.
"When I race with Ivan I dedicate everything I do to him, I can't think about my personal ambitions because being a good domestique takes a huge effort. I get satisfaction from him always being ok, always being protected from the wind and always being where he needs to be," he said, explaining the subtitles of the noble art of the cycling domestique.
"I ride behind him until he needs me on the front because if needs something, I can help him. If he needs a bike, he can take mine, because my bike is the same size. Then when the other guys are tired or finished, I get him up there."
Wurf was 30 in August and has yet to win a road race event as a professional. However he is hoping to cross the line first one day.
"I don’t have any personal goals but I'll be ready if something comes along. Last year I messed up a chance to lead the team when Ivan was unable to ride the Giro and I've learnt from that mistake," he said.
"I'll get what I deserve. If that mean's helping Ivan go for the Giro. Great, if I get a bit of a chance that's great too. I've been close to getting results and I think the more I learn, the more I can improve and eventually have a crack at going for a big win one day."