Chris Hamilton's first year in the WorldTour with Team Sunweb has been a baptism of fire. The 21-year-old Australian had previously ridden just one WorldTour race but just over the halfway mark of 2017 and he's notched up eight and taking it all in his stride.
The former mountain biker is also into new territory having clocked over 40 race days for the first time in his career. With Sunweb's coach and sports director Luke Roberts and personal coach Mark Fenner monitoring his race and training load, Hamilton has finished all but two race so far in 2017, De Brabantse Pijl and the Tour of California the exceptions.
"The good thing about the team is that we know what we are doing for the rest of the year, all going well, in December. When Luke went through the programme and told me all the races, that was pretty exciting hearing all the races you hear about and see on TV," Hamilton told Cyclingnews.
"It is a good confidence boost for me to know that I have made it this far at least and I can handle the training and racing load. I already have quite a few race days compared to a lot of first-year guys so I am pretty happy to handle it."
Although not at the front of the race, Hamilton fought through to finish Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and even a late call up to the Criterium du Dauphine. Of the seven stages races Hamilton has started in 2017, Tour de Yorkshire is the only non-WorldTour event thus far.
"I had my rough ideas, but for instance, the Dauphine wasn't something that I expected to be doing," he said. "It was obviously a pretty big experience for me to get a call up for that. It wasn't in ideal circumstance because I had to pull out of California due to being unwell."
The Tour de France warm up race is considered one of the hardest one-week events on the calendar. Surviving the Dauphine was a massive confidence boost as Hamilton explained.
"To be completely honest, I definitely didn't expect to finish that. I went in with no intentions to make it through but in the end, I did," he said. "My development of bunch skills and moving through the peloton, that is all gradually coming along. At the start of the year, it was pretty clear that that was something I had to work on. Now I am a lot more confident."
"San Sebastian, the most recent race I did was a really good one for me because it was the first time I've felt really comfortable and properly involved in a WorldTour race. I came out of that with a really positive mindset so things are going well."
Watching and learning
Throughout 2017, Hamilton has raced with teammates Tom Dumoulin, Warren Barguil and Michael Matthews, observing what makes them the riders that they are. Dumoulin won two stages on his way to Giro d'Italia success in May, while Barguil and Matthews both won two stages at the Tour de France, and the mountains and points classifications respectively.
"They are all really good and down to earth guys. I don't know if it is a super common thing to be a well-respected rider and such a good person. There is not a lot of stress or tension. For the roles that I play, I find them all easy to cater for," Hamilton said of his teammates," he said of the trio.
"When you are so close to a person like that, you can almost comprehend what it takes to perform at such a high level and keeps the dream a reality."
With the trio lighting up the Giro and Tour in 2017, watching the Grand Tours has been a different experience for Hamilton from previous years as he explained.
"Watching the Giro was pretty special as you watch races like that and see the teams winning and stuff but now I am watching my mates on TV and they are winning one of the biggest bike races in the world," he said. "That was a really cool experience. They really got on a roll at the Tour so I'm pretty excited for what it is to come."
Hamilton won't have to watch the team go about its business at the BinckBank Tour next week as he adds another WorldTour race to his calendar and prepares for the remaining three months of his debut neo-pro season.
"I have not done a lot of racing in Belgium or Holland so Binckbank will be development race for me. To go and do something like that race will be good for me," he concluded.
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