Australia’s Zak Dempster will contest this weekend’s Melbourne-Warrnambool in Victoria, Australia but says he’s not getting too hung up on defending his title. Dempster, who won the 261-kilometre one day race on debut last year, also revealed he’s signed with a yet-to-be-named European team for next season.
Following a crash at last week’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour, Dempster said he's just looking forward to racing again as his road season with Drapac-Porsche winds down. "I don't feel awesome yet, but I've got tomorrow to get ready I guess," he joked. "To be honest I'm still recovering from the crash. I'm feeling better; I'll be able to come up for the day."
Dempster hadn't focused on last year's event, where he out-sprinted Hilton Clarke to win from the six-man lead group. He had only entered the event to race with his father, Darren, but come race day he was there to win – a feeling he expects to return on Saturday.
"I don't want to make the Melbourne-Warrnambool a really desperate quest every year," admitted Dempster. "I think it's a really beautiful race and I'm very honoured to be a part of that history now having won it, even to compete is a real buzz. I guess it compares to the Hawaii Ironman or the Boston Marathon; there’s probably 15 guys that are capable of winning it, the rest are in it because it's such an atmosphere, such an event – they're all competing fiercely still, but that's part of the beauty of it if you see what I mean."
"Of course, when I line-up I'll have winning on my mind, but this week has been a pretty exhausting week and I’m really just looking forward to racing," he added. "I'm looking forward to getting amongst it; it is a painful race because it's so long and the wind, the elements, but I'm just really looking forward to having some fun."
Dempster was quick to single out one rider when asked where his main competition would come from: David Pell. Pell was a part of last year's lead group, finishing third to Dempster. "He has been keen for quite a few years and is yet to win it," said Dempster. "I think he was 12th at the Sun Tour, so he's coming in to it in really good shape.
"I think David Tanner is riding and I think he’ll be a really strong contender too,” he added. “Also my teammate Rhys Pollock. I know Rhys will be, not focused, but he just really loves riding his bike and no doubt he'll have ridden his bike a lot this week and I think he'll have come out of the Sun Tour really good and will be a 'roughie', if you like."
Dempster will return to Europe in 2010, with a team to be announced in coming weeks, despite having a difficult time abroad this year. The 22-year-old had signed with Bulgarian-based Cycling Club Bourgas, but by the time he’d recovered from an early-season illness the team had run into financial difficulties and folded. He was thrown a lifeline by Drapac-Porsche for the closing months of the 2009 season.
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