Campbell Flakemore has addressed his reasons for leaving the sport in 2015 as a 23-year-old neo-pro with BMC Racing, writing on the blog Stanley Street Social that he has never regretted leaving the top level of the sport after just one year on a WorldTour team.
Flakemore, who is currently working for a landscape company in Hobart and plans to move back to Melbourne to start university again, wrote that he had started contemplating leaving the sport long before he signed his contract with BMC for the 2014 season.
In 2014, while suffering a deep slump as he competed with the Australian U23 squad in Europe, Flakemore had determined to leave the sport at the end of the 2014 season. But when he returned to the race scene after a brief trip to Barcelona with friends, his performances started to look up.
He won the opening time trial at the Tour de l'Avenir, and a contract offer from BMC soon followed. Then he went on to win the U23 time trial world championship title, and the prospects for his cycling future began to look up.
"It was two days before the TT when I got a call from my manager," Flakemore wrote. "'BMC have a contract for you,' he said, 'Do you want it?'
Flakemore's first year with BMC started out well as he revelled in the rock-star treatment at team camp and before the Tour Down Under. But a crash while riding back from stage 2 of the Australian race resulted in a broken collarbone and the beginning of a downward spiral that culminated with Flakemore telling team director Allan Peiper that he wasn't sure he wanted to return for another year.
Flakemore stuck it out for a while longer, but it was clear to him after his final race at the Vattenfall Cyclassic in Germany that the life of the professional cyclist was not one for him.
He still wakes up early in the morning to watch European races on TV like many Australian fans, and he wrote that his love of the sport will never change.
"Cycling gave me everything I have today, and without it, I would be lost," he wrote. "I'd do it all over again, and recommend it to anyone; the places it takes you and the people you meet is like nothing else, but it just wasn't for me as an athlete."
Slagter to lead Dimension Data at Tour Down Under
Tom-Jelte Slagter will make his debut in team Dimension Data colours at the Tour Down Under next week. The former champion will lead the team as they search for their first ever overall WorldTour victory.
Slagter will be backed up by Australian climber Lachlan Morton, who is also a potential stage winner. Slagter won the overall Tour Down Under title in 2013, beating Javi Moreno and Geraint Thomas to the title after winning stage 3 and escaping with Simon Gerrans two days later on Willunga Hill. He returned to the race for the first time since winning it last year and finished 14th overall.
"The Tour Down Under is a great way to start the season with my new team. So far I am really happy with the team since we met in South Africa last year, everything has been great here as well with everyone working well together," Slagter said in a team press release. "Training has been going well too and it's really nice to start the season here, in good weather.
"We have a motivated team, with some Australian's who are normally in good shape for their home race. We are here to race for the victory or at least the best possible result we can achieve. I have good memories from 2013 and I was here last year as well, so I think with this team we can do a really good and I am ready for it too."
Along with Morton, Slagter has the assistance of another up -and-coming Australian in Ben O'Connor. The 22-year-old finished eighth in the youth classification at last year's edition. The team will be looking to Mark Renshaw, who won a stage of the race back in 2008, to mix it in the sprint finishes. He has a very tough task with Peter Sagan, Andre Greipel, Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani among the fast men in Adelaide. Completing the line-up are Jaco Venter, Nic Dlamini and new signing Scott Davies.
The Tour Down Under will begin on Tuesday, January 16, with the riders set to take on the People's Choice Classic criterium this Sunday, ahead of the main race.
Dimension Data for Tour Down Under: Tom Jelte-Slagter, Lachlan Morton, Ben O'Connor, Mark Renshaw, Scott Davies, Jaco Venter and Nic Dlamini,
AG2R La Mondiale name Tour Down Under team
The French WorldTour squad AG2R La Mondiale will send a mix of experienced riders and newcomers to the Tour Down Under, the first major race of the 2018 season.
Of the seven-man squad, only Matteo Montaguti and Ben Gastauer have raced TDU before. The new experience is motivating for Pierre Latour, the French time trial champion and winner of the best young riders competition at Tour de Romandie last season.
"I am happy to have the chance to race these Australian events for the first time," Latour said in a team press release. "I have been a professional since 2015, but I have never had the opportunity to start a race so far away."
Latour said he isn't sure what to expect from the race, but is excited about the team and the chance to race in Australia through the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
"My winter has been productive, I have not been hobbled by any health glitches, and I feel good on the bike," he said. "This trip to Australia holds many interests for me. It will allow me to make my first efforts in a competition for the year, and will also present a good early test with the finish at the top of Willunga Hill."
Latour is joined by Gastauer and Mikaël Cherel, who have been training in the Adelaide area since mid-December, as well as neo-pro Nans Peters, Montaguti, Nico Denz and Stijn Vandenbergh.
The rest of the squad is taking part in a training camp in Spain through January 19.
AG2R La Mondiale for Tour Down Under: Mikael Cherel, Matteo Montaguti, Pierre Latour, Nico Denz, Ben Gastauer, Nans Peters, Stijn Vandenbergh
16 WorldTour teams for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne
The organisers of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne announced the 25 teams that will compete in the 2018 edition of the race, naming 16 WorldTour squads for the event.
Scheduled to take place on February 25, the 1.HC-ranked race, together with the WorldTour Omloop Het Nieuwsblad the day before, signals the start of the Classics season in Belgium.
A sprint-friendly parcours, the race has been won by the likes of Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish and Tom Boonen, but from time to time a cagey rider can get away and snatch victory from the fast men, like Jasper Stuyven did in 2016. One of the more memorable victories was that of Bobbie Traksel, who was one of only 26 riders to complete the race, which was run in high winds and rain, the result of a winter cyclone named Xynthia.
WorldTour teams for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne: AG2R La Mondiale, Astana Pro Team, Bahrain-Merida, BMC Racing Team, Bora-Hansgrohe, Dimension Data, EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale, Groupama-FDJ, Katusha-Alpecin, LottoNL-Jumbo, Lotto Soudal, Mitchelton-Scott, Quick-Step Floors, Team Sky, Trek-Segafredo, UAE Team Emirates
Pro Continental teams for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne: Direct Energie, Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Wanty-Groupe Gobert, Cofidis, Solutions Credits, Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij, Israel-Cycling Academy, Team Fortuneo - Oscaro, WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect, Veranda's Willems Crelan