Out of the 31 Australians lining up for the Santos Tour Down Under, Cameron Wurf is among the first timers. He’ll start his career in a ProTeam next week as he has just joined Italian superpower Liquigas-Cannondale, making the step up from Pro Continental team Androni-Diquigiovanni.
The former Olympic rower turned professional just two years ago. “In 2009, Cycling Australia selected me for Le Tour de Langkawi in support of Jay Crawford, who came second overall, rather than for the Tour Down Under”, Wurf recalled.
“To be able to race here is awesome”, Wurf told Cyclingnews. “It has become a very important event in Australia. When people recently asked me which race I’d be taking part in and I said the Tour Down Under, they looked impressed. It’s as if two races count most in the mind of Australian cycling enthusiasts: the Tour de France and the Tour Down Under.”
Wurf plans to ride both this year. He joined Liquigas-Cannondale because of his ability to ride hard and for a long time at the front of the bunch in the style of dedicated Australian domestiques of the past like Neil Stephens or Matt White. He was coached by the late Aldo Sassi, who recommended him as a helper for Ivan Basso. Consequently, he’s set to move from Monaco to Varese to keep training with the winner of the 2010 Giro d’Italia, who has set his sights on the Tour de France this year.
“In the first part of the year, I’ll be in the team for the classics up to Paris-Roubaix, then I’ll take a break and if my condition is good enough after the Tour of California, I might ride for Basso at the Tour de France,” Wurf said. “I have to do a very good job to make these things happen.”
He first experienced life at Liquigas when he joined a training camp in San Pellegrino and in Sardinia in December. “The organisation of a ProTour team was a big shock for me,” he noted. “They don’t leave any detail unturned.”
One year ago, Liquigas came to South Australia with a super talent who got noticed as early as during the opening Cancer Council Classic: Peter Sagan. Up and coming fast men Elia Viviani, Davide Cimolai, Kristjan Koren and Fabio Sabatini are all in the picture this year, while Wurf is free to see how well he can climb in Stirling and Willunga.
The man from Hobart expects HTC-Highroad’s Matt Goss to be in the mix for the overall win and therefore win a race within a race that is fiercely contested in the bunch: the Tassie Cup. It’s an unofficial reward for the best Tasmanian in every race.
“Richie (Porte) set the bar high last year (by finishing 7th in the Giro),” Wurf said with a smile. “The best Tasmanian is designated by a common feeling. We’re close enough friends to not argue about which one of us is the best. With Gossy and the Sulzberger brothers, the chances of having a Tasmanian right at the top of the results sheets of the Santos Tour Down Under this year are high.”