In a world of metaphors, life's a roundabout for Allan Davis. The Australian sprinter, one of the most talented Australian cycling exports of his generation, has continued to find himself in similar scenarios during the past few seasons and 2010 is no different.
He's at a new team, having left the not-so-sunny shores of Quick Step at the end of 2009, announcing recently that he - and his brother Scott - will ride for Astana this season. He also goes into another edition of the Tour Down Under as one of the men to watch in the week-long event around the hills of Adelaide, Australia.
Last year he returned from the cycling wilderness to ride for Quick Step and win the Down Under title, his first after riding every edition of the race since its inception in 1999. While he was a wide-eyed young lad more than a decade ago, Davis says he's much wiser now, the past few years having taught him so much.
To his credit, despite the setbacks, he remains optimistic about what this season has in store. "I've learnt a lot over the last few years and I've grown tougher mentally - it's made me more eager to achieve," says Davis. "I'm really confident in the way things are planned out and I can get some good results over the next few years."
One of those lessons occurred before last year's Tour de France. Included in the Tour squad after Tom Boonen was left off the race roster due to indiscretions involving cocaine, the Belgian star was granted a last minute reprieve and allowed to start the race. Davis was dumped just hours before the grand départ in Monaco and returned home to Bundaberg.
It hurt the softly-spoken Queenslander affectionately known as 'Alby' - he had been set to return to the event he'd first ridden back in 2004 as part of the Liberty Seguros set up. That year there had been a top 10 on stage one, a smattering of top 20 stage placings and a 98th overall on general classification.
At 24 the world appeared at the Bundaberg native's feet. There was another appearance at the 2005 Tour, this time reaping five top 10 stage placings and 84th overall. The progression seemed inevitable to continue until events that transpired throughout 2006, 2007 and 2008 left him on the fringes of the sport and seemingly without a future in cycling.
Then a ride for Patrick Lefevere's Quick Step team - the squad with which he had turned professional back in 2001 - brought him back to life on the world stage, as did his win in last year's Tour Down Under, which is why the pain of being unceremoniously axed hit him hard.
"It was a tricky situation; I pretty much copped the rough end of the pineapple... I guess the politics side of things had a little bit to do with my decision but not a great deal," says Davis, playing down the suggestion that the Tour snub dictated his change of teams. "I would've loved to have been at the Tour de France - last year and for the last couple of years - because I have the ability to perform well at that level."
So again finding himself in the cycling wilderness, an old home beckoned. The Astana squad - a loose incarnation of the old Liberty Seguros team - offered him a lifeline back to the highest level, and most importantly, a place for his brother Scott to ply his trade. The team where Davis had made his name and seemed destined to achieve big things with, gave him shelter when he needed it, much like Lefevere had done before the 2009 season.
"Signing Scott was probably the main sweetener in riding for Astana - it had a big impact on my decision to leave Quick Step," Davis explains. "I wanted to help Scott out and I think he hasn't shown his full potential to everyone yet and what he can do on the bike; we're brothers, so it's good to help your brother out. It'd be good to ride alongside him again at the pro level."
In addition to his brother, Davis will be reunited on a professional level with Alberto Contador, with whom he rode at Liberty Seguros. "It'll be great to get back together with Conta and see what we can do together in the same team," he says.
"Back in 2003 and 2004, the Liberty [Seguros] days, everyone within the team was saying what we could do looking forward and we've done it - Alberto at the highest level of anyone - so it'd just be great to get back together. I've got a good feeling about it and I'm looking forward to just working together again and doing what we did five or six years ago at the top level of the sport," continues Davis.
Davis will get the chance to work with his new teammates - the likes of which include Oscar Pereiro and Andriy Grivko - at next week's Tour Down Under. He also has the opportunity to be only the second rider to take a second win in the event, after Stuart O'Grady won the inaugural edition in 1999 and in 2001. Should Davis win he'll be the only back-to-back overall victor.
"I'm feeling pretty similar to last year, although at the moment I'm just lacking the race legs - I did the nationals to put me in good shape for Tour Down Under," Davis explains. "Realistically the first goal is to pull off a stage win and maybe a top five overall would be great.
"It'd be hard to repeat last year but the first objective is a stage win and if I do that then I'll just take it day by day and if I'm around the mark I'll definitely have another crack, that's for sure," he says.
But his big goal in early 2010? Of course, Milano-Sanremo, a race in which the win has eluded him. Second in 2007 and fourth last year has kept him hungry for the crown at 'il Classicisimo'. "I base all of my training around Milan-Sanremo, to really peak in form there," he says. "Sanremo is a race that's suited to me down to the ground. I've shown that I can perform there over the years and it's definitely a big goal on my list this year."
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