Zak Dempster (NetApp-Endura) has never been one to hold back and it's a trend he'll be looking to continue on Sunday when he makes his debut at the Tour of Flanders. The German-based ProContinental outfit, having earned a wildcard for the classic, have a mountain to climb against their more established rivals, stacked with big names and budgets to match, and Dempster's attitude is the same that his teammates will carry into the 256km Belgian epic.
"Hopefully I can make some sort of impact on the race, whether that's in an early break ... the main thing is to finish and get the experience - that's what it's all about," the 25-year-old Australian told Cyclingnews with the aim for the team to be visible.
"Paul Voss has been riding pretty well, [Daniel] Schorn's good. It's a strong team. Hopefully we're all firing."
Having previously lived in the region, Dempster is familiar with the testing parcours.
"The Oude Kwaremont's pretty cool," he grinned. "I used to do laps of the Kwaremont and laps of the Koppenberg in training and always hoped that one day I'd be competitive at Flanders.
"It's an achievement when you get to the point where you get to race the Ronde van Vlaanderen but it's also not enough for me. I don't expect to be fighting for the top five but I want to be involved.'
In the week leading into Flanders, Dempster rode the Three Days of De Panne, finishing second-best of the NetApp-Endura team in 69th overall, 12:32 down on the winning time of Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) with Blaz Jarc just outside the top 20. Ideally, Dempster would prefer to be in better form having been slowed down by a cold at the back end of Tirreno - Adriatico. So determined has Dempster been to hit the ground running in his first season in the ProConti ranks, having already completed 28 race days, beginning with the Cycling Australia Road National Championships in January where he finished 10th behind winner Luke Durbridge (Orica GreenEdge). He then went on to ride the Tour Down Under, the Tour of Qatar, Oman, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and then Tirreno - Adriatico. Should the trend continue, he could be well on the way to topping his 2012 effort racing for Endura Racing where he completed 70 race days for a grand tally of around 30,000 kilometres.
Driven by the knowledge that he's been on the verge before - in 2011 he earned a stagiaire ride for the soon-to-be-defunct HTC-Highroad at the Tour of Utah - Dempster has thrown himself into the 2013 season.
"I think I just had to take every opportunity I could get. I've done that," he said of his first three months on the road for NetApp - Endura. "I cracked a bit in Tirreno - I got the flu and it set me back a bit but it's part of spring racing I guess, dealing with your health and recovering."
Dempster admits he might approach things differently, given the chance and not take on so much so early, but it wouldn't be his style.
"I've always wanted to do these races," he said. "I'd like to have taken a bit more confidence from this [De Panne] but you just have to keep fighting."
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.
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