Will Dickeson is somewhat of an old hand at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour with four previous editions under his belt, but this time around, it will be an altogether different experience for the current Oceania time trial champion.
Having ridden the UCI 2.1 race with South Australian Savings & Loans squad between 2006 and 2009, Dickeson returns with the US Continental outfit Jelly Belly presented by Kenda.
"I know what to expect but it will be a bit of a new experience riding it for a foreign team I guess," he told Cyclingnews from his home in Adelaide where 28-year-old has been enjoying some down time after the US Pro Cycling Challenge. "In the past the race has been the focal point of the whole season for Savings & Loans, but this is part of our end of season racing block."
Dickeson is one of two Australians in the team for the Sun Tour with Canberran Al Loutit also set for the startline in Whittlesea on Wednesday. They're joined by sprinters two-time Tulsa Tough winner Brad Huff, and former Elite USA Criterium Champion Ken Hanson along with and Nic Hamilton. Alex Hagman was a late withdrawal due to knee tendonitis.
"We're obviously super-motivated to get results, especially me and Al being Australians," Dickeson explained. "Also, it's a chance to show Jelly Belly here in Australia. The distributer here will be coming along and doing a few things so it's also really important to show ourselves off for them. Focus, our bike supplier is just building in Australia so it's a big event for them as well with Katusha also riding. There're a few factors that will make it a pretty big week for us."
Based in Colorado when he's back in the US and with a recent focus on his climbing, Dickeson is keen to test his form and see if he can be in the mix when it comes to the Sun Tour's queen stage on Saturday with three laps over Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula, "hopefully that will pay off a bit," he said.
Fighting second year syndrome
2011 has marked Dickeson's second season riding in the US and it's been a year of transition for Jelly Belly having lost three of its big names - Mike Friedman (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Canadian Road Champion Will Routley (SpiderTech-C10) and Kiel Reijnen (Team Type 1).
"In the first year Jelly Belly had their best season ever as far as results go winning some big races and then this year we had a pretty big turnover of guys," Dickeson explained. "It took until April, May to get into sync with each other so it's been a bit of a learning experience in the last few months where we've been able to come together and start pulling off a few more results and we've been riding a lot better together."
The learning curve continued for Dickeson with August's USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado when he found himself in the day's break on the opening stage to Mt. Crested Butte but it was a case of going too hard, too early and he failed to make it to Stage 6.
"I did a few things wrong," he laughs. "It was my first time racing at altitude and went into it a bit over-trained I guess. I'd had a good three week training camp up in the mountains so I stuffed it up a bit; I was in pretty poor shape. I was really fatigued.
"I got into a break on the first road stage and spent two hours way above the red line and that pretty much put me in a hole that I wasn't getting out of. Every day I was waking up and just not having recovered at all, so that was a bit disappointing. I've definitely learnt from it so that was something."
This season, racing many of the courses for the second time, and having adapted to host housing the travel, the year has been that little bit easier – but not that it was ever a problem.
"The main thing with Jelly Belly is that the team is all about having fun and it attracts a really good bunch of guys and fans," Dickeson explained.
"I've just signed on for another year so I'm really looking forward to that. I will probably go over a bit earlier and do the Redlands, San Dimas-type races and hopefully prepare really well for the Tour of California again."
Following the Jayco Herald Sun Tour this week, Dickeson will finish the season by heading to the Japan Cup followed by the expanded, nine-stage Tour of Hainan.
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