Australian track cyclist-turned-roadie Zak Dempster raced his first Grand Tour at the 2013 Vuelta a España last season with his new UCI Pro Continental squad NetApp-Endura, even cracking the top 10 on a stage.
Dempster finished nine places behind winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC) on the 164.2km stage 12 from Maella to Tarragona before the young Australian eventually finished 74th in the points classification and 133rd overall.
This year the 26-year-old Victorian, who stands at a towering 190cm, is just days away from having his first crack at the fabled Tour de France which departs from Leeds, Yorkshire on Saturday, July 5 before finishing 22 days later on Sunday, July 27 along the Champs-Élysée in Paris.
"At the moment I'm excited to get the chance because it's not something everybody gets," Dempster told Cyclingnews of his pending start in Leeds. "I feel a lot more confident with the Vuelta in my legs to be able to step up, contribute and be a part of the race.
"The Tour is obviously a whole new level and I have to keep my feet on the ground, focus day-to- day, stick to the team plan and if I'm in a position to take an opportunity, then you won't have to tell me twice."
Dempster says he continues to draw on his eight years of road racing experience, which started in 2006 with Drapac-Porsche and included a stint as a stagiaire with HTC-Highroad in 2011, to help him continue his evolution as a pro cyclist, and the Tour will be no different.
"I took more life skills from Drapac," said Dempster. "I'm really grateful to Michael Drapac for instilling in me a much more holistic view of life and my self esteem.
"The stagiaire role [at HTC] gave me the chance to see that I was capable of making the step to a big team and being able to hold my own and support some of the best riders in the peloton."
For the two-time Oceania team pursuit and Australian U23 road race champion, Dempster is clear on his team’s expectations, but told Cyclingnews he is not above taking his shot,
"First and foremost [I am there] to support our GC/climbing guys in the Tour," he said. "If I get a chance in a flatter stage [or on a] transitional day then I'll be going for it with everything.
"A Grand Tour is so long and for the moment it's all about getting through the first week in a good position and in one piece."
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