Cameron Meyer is no stranger to success with a palmarès that includes Grand Tour stage wins, WorldTour stage victories and multiple rainbow jerseys.
Eighteen months ago, that past success mattered little. Cycling was the last thing on Meyer's mind as he walked away from the sport and gave up his contract with Dimension Data. The first significant break off the bike in Meyer's already 10-year-plus career.
The break would do wonders for Meyer, the now 30-year-old rekindling his love for the sport, adding two more world track titles to his palmarès, and signing a three-year contract with Mitchelton-Scott based around his ambition of winning an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo 2020.
"I feel I am starting a new chapter within my cycling," Meyer recently told Cyclingnews. "I feel I am in two halves. I had that break and before that, I was a young rider trying to achieve success in a lot of different avenues from track to trying to be a GC rider. I took that break and now I feel I am stepping into a little bit more of a leadership role. I still feel really young. I feel I am going back to races after that break and really wanting to go there."
"I got to the end of that period where I had been a professional for eight years and it was becoming a bit of drag to go to races, mentally more than physically. Now I feel refreshed and I want to go to places and races and really hit it hard and work for the team and target my own success in certain ways as well. I feel like I am starting a second chapter of my cycling career."
While the majority of WorldTour riders are just starting their seasons, Meyer is closing out a 'season' that started last year and will culminate with the Commonwealth Games on home soil in April. With the Australian summer of cycling done and dusted, second overall at the Herald Sun Tour a personal highlight, Meyer's attention is now firmly focused on the track.
At the track world championships this week in the Netherlands, Meyer and Callum Scotson will link up for the Madison. The duo enjoyed six-day success over the winter and won silver in the Madison at last year's worlds. The 2018 worlds though is an important test on the road to Tokyo and a race Meyer is hungry to win and bank further experience of riding with Scotson.
"There is no Madison at the Commonwealth Games, so I wasn't willing to miss the madison for a year. We need that experience. Especially my partner Callum, he needs as many opportunities as he can at the world championships level," he said. "There might be a little bit of expectation from the general public and media eye for only sending a small squad, but we are on the path to try and achieve big things in Tokyo and this is one of those stepping stones."
When the decision was made to return to cycling, Meyer explained, "I didn't want to step in and be seen as a rider that could win in the past and can't win anymore." On the track, Meyer has certainly proven he remains a winner and will look to prove that point again at Worlds. On the road, Meyer also wants to return to winning ways with the Commonwealth Games an opportunity to taste track and road success in the one week.
Post-Commonwealth Games, Meyer returns to the trade team set up with Mitchelton-Scott in May and June with an emphasis on playing a team role. Meyer then takes a break over June and July before resetting and focusing on earning a place in the team time trial squad at Worlds. A Grand Tour, though, will have to wait until at least next year as Meyer explained.
"This year the one week tours is more my focus. Having not done a Grand Tour for a couple of years now, I think I need to get into the rhythm of racing consistently on the road and that is doing one weeker's, one-day races at the highest level in the WorldTour," said Meyer of his programme.
"That is going to be enough conditioning for me along with all the track racing I am doing. I think 2019 is the year I need to put a Grand Tour in there just to really build the extra foundation before I go into the Olympic year. In the Olympic year, there will be a real emphasis on my track side of things with Tokyo and I think 2019 is the year to go back into a Grand Tour."
In the past, Meyer struggled with the expectation of being a GC rider for the Grand Tours. His 130th overall at the 2013 Tour de France is his best three-week result but not a true reflection of his GC talents. Overall Tour Down Under and Herald Sun Tour wins and top-10 overall results at Tirreno–Adriatico, Tour de Suisse and Tour of California are better indications of his GC talent. Grand Tours then will be all about supporting the aspirations of his teammates, and should a stage win opportunity arise, pursuing that goal.
"There won't be the expectations I have put on myself or I had in previous years of being a GC rider," he said. "I want to support the team and that is what I am brought in here for. I have my track ambitions, and when I go into a Grand Tour it will be really about helping the team with their ambitions, be that a GC support role for a Yates or Esteban Chaves or a sprinter like Caleb Ewan. I think that will primarily be my role.
"Obviously, there could be opportunities in there to stage hunt, and I will try to take them with two hands. I am looking at that role, being a little bit of an older rider now just turning 30, of passing on my experience and being a little bit more of a leader. And that is helping those other guys achieve success for team."
Enjoying the moment
Since winning three junior track world titles and four national track titles in 2006, Meyer has regularly and repeatedly visited the top step of the podium. However, Meyer admits that he did not always take the time to recognise and celebrate his results and performances. An approach Meyer no longer takes, as he explained.
"I take it on a lot more these days. I remember I had great results, which are a bit of a blur back in my past. I remember people saying you have been to the Olympics, and I went to the Olympics in 2008 and run fourth but to me, it was a bit of blur," he said of his fourth place in the points race.
"I didn't really take it in. I didn't let things soak in. I didn't really respect the opportunities that I had, and nowadays when I am at a race and we do achieve success or I have had a really great week, I try to soak that in and absorb what had been a great opportunity for me. I am loving what I do and I do take that time out now to enjoy it a lot more than what I used to."
And with a number of younger teammates on the track and in Mitchelton-Scott's squad, Meyer is passing on further insights he's gained over the last decade, hoping he can be an example of what goes wrong when cycling is your sole focus. But also, how to recalibrate, refocus and ensure success both on and off the bike.
"I was really young when I stepped into the WorldTour ,and it came at me so quick that I didn't take it in and didn't take those moments also to have time off the bike and really enjoy the things I do as a person in a normal lifestyle. Trying to get that balancing act is so important," he told Cyclingnews.
"We are in such a stressful environment and job and if you don't manage that right you can burn out," he said. "I am a perfect example of that, where I needed a break and I have come back. If I can pass on that experience than I will."
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