After six years with Orica-GreenEdge, the timing was right for Mitch Docker to make a change. In 2018, the 31-year-old is riding for a new team in EF Education-Drapac but his love for the cobbled classics remains unchanged.
EF Education-Drapac may be a new team for Docker but it is also a familiar one. Docker's first contract was back in 2006 with the Drapac-Porsche Continental squad, the team going on to acquire Pro-Continental status then merging with the Cannondale team at the end the 2016 season. The signing though was a step forward and not a return to the past as Docker explained.
"I think there comes a point in any job and especially in a cycling career where you need to change things up and push out of you comfort zone," Docker told Cyclingnews of the change. "I am feeling that here in this team that it is a fresh start and I am motivated in a different way again and really feeling comfortable."
Like a number of Australian professionals based in Europe, Docker makes the long trip Down Under for the off-season and starts the new year on home roads. With the weather of his home city Melbourne increasingly unreliable, "One day it is 40 degrees and the next it’s 15 and raining", Docker timed his run back home as late as possible. The decision was also taken to ensure he be can in peak form and lay the foundation for success in the cobbled classics from February through to April.
Docker's first race in Europe with EF Education-Drapac comes at opening weekend where he will line out at both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. A seasoned campaigner on the classics, Docker will be a key support rider for the team through to Paris-Roubaix and believes a major win is within reach. The Australian backing in Sep Vanmarcke to take a breakthrough monument win after a handful of podiums in recent seasons.
"We have a real contender in Sep who I think can take out these classics," he said. "I feel like in Orica we were a growing team and striving for that result in the future. I feel like stepping into EF Education-Drapac that we are ready to step on the podium and maybe take a monument or one of the big boys. I am excited to go for that goal and I am there to support him. If not, I will be there to look for opportunities as well. As always I am excited about the classics but a bit more so this year."
At the conclusion of the cobbled classics in the Roubaix velodrome, Docker and his former teammates Mat Hayman and Alex Edmondson will head back to Australia for the Commonwealth Games road race. The quadrennial event to close out the first major of block of racing for the season.
"To represent your country at the Comm Games, to represent your country full stop, you never turn that down," he said.
Docker's next block of racing post-April possibly including the Giro d'Italia, for what would be his first Grand Tour since the 2015 Vuelta a Espana.