Zak Dempster says that he's looking to expand his racing repertoire next season after extending his current contract with Israel Cycling Academy into next year. The 30-year-old Australian also wants to focus on honing his lead-outs next season after his team brought in a whole raft of new sprinters for 2018.
"I'm looking forward to broadening my horizons to the tougher races. I'm looking forward to finally nailing some results and not just breakaways in classics and being there in the sharp end of races," Dempster told Cyclingnews at a recent team bonding camp in Israel.
"I think it is important that we work together to get those results so in big bunch sprints I'm more suited to launching a guy than sprinting and that has been obvious for a while now, probably since I started racing now. We've got a bunch of really fast guys like Edwin [Avila] and we've got Mihkel [Raim] who has proven that he can win at pro level. I'm really looking forward to racing with those guys in a lead-out role."
Dempster joined the Israel Cycling Academy at the start of this season after four years with Bora-Argon 18 (formerly NetApp-Endura). The 30-year-old had been working in a lead-out roll with sprinter Sam Bennett to three victories throughout the 2016 season. Dempster came to the newly promoted squad with the hopes of taking up the leadership role a little more and nail a few more wins along the way.
Crashes in the spring made for a disappointing start to the season and a number of DNFs but there were some more solid results at the end of the season. A win did not come to fruition by the end of the year but ultimately Dempster felt like he had made some steps forward.
"I did some things that I wanted to do and I didn't get to do some things that I wanted to do. That's pretty standard. In general, I think I had a pretty good standard," said Dempster. "I had some off periods in the spring, but especially with my London result and a few others, I was happy with how I rode and how I progressed and I definitely think that I am a better athlete.
"The strength and conditioning side of things I want to iron out a bit more and I'm going to have a training base in Girona so that's going to help me on the motor pacing side of things. I'll be training pretty much in the same way but putting the method a bit more in place."
Bora-Argon 18 and Israel Cycling Academy raced at the same level but the level and experience were vastly different. Dempster had been in the middle of the pack in terms age and experience but he quickly rose to the top upon moving to the Israeli team. It was a change of pace for the Australian but he has enjoyed it and believes that his younger teammates have come through the other side stronger than they began.
"We had 11 neo-pros and the lowest average age of all the teams. It's something completely different and kind of refreshing because they've got a different mindset and it is something refreshing and cool to be around," Dempster explained to Cyclingnews.
"Everyone makes stupid mistakes in races when you're young and to see them constantly evolving and doing it at a rapid pace too you see the riders developing from Valencia in February and then Quebec and Montreal. Ben and Tyler weren't performing badly in the spring but they're definitely better riders now than they were then."
As is most often the case, Dempster's main goals will be in the first half of the season with the spring Classics the focal point for him. The exact calendar will depend on the race invitations the team receives, but a start at the Giro d'Italia is highly likely and a spot on the team is in high demand. Dempster is no different to his teammates.
"It's hard to say before we get a confirmed programme I'd love to do the Giro if we get it," he said. "I've done the Tour and the Vuelta so it would be cool to get the full set, and then the Classics. If we have that focus in Belgium and races like Strade and Milan-San Remo then I'll prepare for those hard one-day races the best I can.
"You almost have to focus like the season is going to be over in the first half and then go from there because in August and September there are races but the main focus is there."