Joe Lewis and Alistair Loutit are the latest young Australians to ride in the US next season, with the former taking a place with the Trek-Livestrong development squad while Loutit will ply his trade in long-standing Continental outfit Jelly Belly.
For Loutit, the Jelly Belly position was organised by former professional Trent Wilson, who was one of the US peloton's 'favourite Australians' for several years, riding with the likes of Neil Shirley at Jittery Joe's earlier this decade. "I was going pretty well this year so he helped me out and set me up with something for next year... it just turned out that they liked my profile and the fact that I have dual citizenship," he explained.
Lewis told Cyclingnews that his opportunity was mostly through persistence and some attractive results. "At the start of the year I had two goals; one was to make Worlds and one was to ride for an international team for next year," he said. "Basically, from the start of the year I thought about where I wanted to go and the pathways people have taken through to the ProTour. There was one obvious option: the Australian Institute of Sport but there was also Trek-Livestong.
"I got [team manager] Axel Merckx's email from Ben King [the Australian Ben King - ed.], actually, and I just emailed him, telling him who I was and what I wanted to do next year and what I was doing... Since then I've just been talking to him and emailing results. Eventually he just offered me a spot."
Lewis admits that he's not a pure sprinter but can find his way to the front of a small group given the right conditions. Loutit explained that he's still finding his niche, but says that he's "always been naturally better at climbing" although he doesn't want to be known as a "pure climber" and doesn't think he will be.
"I'm aiming to be an all-rounder and a good time trialler, stuff like that," he said. It's reminiscent of another Jelly Belly rider, Australian Will Dickeson, who has forged a reputation in the squad for being a dependable all-rounder.
Lewis, who has ridden for Australian development squad Drapac-Porsche for the past two seasons, will live in the team's house in Boulder, whilst Loutit will be based in San Diego after a year spent racing for local squad McDonagh-Blake Witness, where Wilson was team manager.
"It was a good opportunity for me [riding with McDonagh-Blake Witness] because I had a rough year after junior Worlds and I didn't have any solid results. It was a good pick-me-up to get in a low-budget team just starting out, but it turns out I had a lot of room to move about; I could do pretty much any race I wanted and managed to improve my form. I got good advice from 'Willo' at races because he knows what he's talking about. It was good to go well on the local scene."
Lewis also enjoyed a solid year on the local scene, riding the Scody Cup Series with the likes of former Australian road race national champion Peter McDonald and perennial performer Stuart Shaw. The move to Trek-Livestrong is part of plan that he aims will take him towards bigger things, such as European racing, however.
"I'm definitely looking to move to a bigger European team at the end of next year; obviously I've only got one more year left as an under 23 but I think I've found a good platform to make the step up," Lewis said. "If I can have a good year, win some races next season - this will be the first year I've really concentrated 100 percent on cycling."
Loutit aims to follow a similar path and explained: "I think I'm like Joe, but a year behind because I'm a year younger. I just want to go over to the US and see what I can do because I'm not going to uni - I'm going to defer next year. Europe's definitely where I want to end up, so whether it takes one, two, three years... I'm not too fussed if I can live off being a bike rider in the meantime.
"There are so many teams going from the US to Europe, so I'd really like to make a big impression next year, see what I can do."
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