A fitting end to the year at Tour de Okinawa and a promising start to the 2013 season with a stage win at the UCI 2.2 New Zealand Cycle Classic was confirmation for Thomas Palmer (Drapac Professional Cycling) that he was back on track after spending many months off the bike due in 2012 to illness. Sensitivity to a range of foods held back the three-time junior track world champion for much of 2012 but now he's back on track and taking aim at the upcoming Tour de Taiwan.
Palmer was forced to spend nearly months away from training and racing in 2012 due to a combination of issues that he believes stemmed from his dietary choices. He made dramatic changes in an attempt to find his old self and while many of it seemed basic in his eyes, he needed time to adjust to what he called a "pretty intense" period.
"I really concentrated on my digestion and diet," Palmer told Cyclingnews. "I took out a lot of foods that I was sensitive towards. I took back gluten, complex sugars... It was pretty intense to start with during last year and that was the real reason why I couldn't ride. I was being so strict with my diet that there was no way I could the energy requirements to train, let alone race. That's why I took the time away from the bike to first get my health back to normal and then work back from there.
The Drapac sprinter started the year with the Australian National Team at the Tour Down Under and raced for part of the year before realizing he wasn't right. Palmer was understandably nervous when he finally returned to proper training and racing later in the season but believes it won't be long for him to get back into the kind of condition that has made him one of Australia's most promising sprinters.
"Coming back to racing I was pretty nervous. I didn't know if I was going to be half as good as I was before, or better or absolutely terrible. The main thing I learnt was while I hadn't had adequate training, once my health was right I was straight back to my best level."
He returned to racing at Goulburn to City, took out the Wollongong round at the NSW Grand Prix, finally captured the road race at the Tour de Okinawa - after winning the prologue in 2009, 2010 and 2011 before the race was reduced to a single day for 2012 - and kept racing until the NZ Cycle Classic in January this year. That was essentially the end of season after stopping part way through last year start.
"Okinawa was probably my first result after all that sickness. There were a lot of races in January and I got the one win at Wellington but for me I saw that as the end of my 2012 campaign, in a sense," Palmer told Cyclingnews. "Because of the sickness I didn't have that conventional end of season break so that [Wellington] was kind of the end of the season for me."
Palmer, who is currently studying for his Arts degree at University in Canberra just wants to get on with showing his full potential in 2013 and that means winning bike races. Taiwan will be his first chance to do just that before targeting the Tour of Japan later in the year. The racing in Taiwan is difficult to predict, according to Palmer whose teammate Rhys Pollock won the 2012 edition after finding himself in the right moves throughout the opening stages before taking over the race lead on Stage 4.
"With the team that we are taking this year we have guys who could do exactly the same [as Pollock did] last year. I would love to say I'm going there to chalk up some wins but at the same time it could turn out like last year," he said.
"This is the start of my season and obviously I want to start by putting my best foot forward. What I'm intending to do is really get back and be able to reach my full potential with a full season. Like everyone, I want to win bike races. If I'm going to move forward in the future to a bigger team and look to become a professional bike rider then the only think for me to do is win bike races. I'm looking to win as many races as I possibly can.
Adding Luke Davison to the mix
The Drapac squad has always had a number of good sprinters in its ranks but Palmer was the only ‘pure' sprinter until Luke Davison signed for the team at the end of 2012. Davison took out the National Road Series last year on the back of a brilliant season that included winning Goulburn to Sydney, the overall at the Tour of the Murray and a further 10 NRS stage wins.
Adding another fast-man to the roster is a smart move according to the Canberra resident Palmer who says it will give the team options throughout the season and ensure there's a fresh-legged sprinter for every race of the year.
"Obviously no one rider can race everything so it means we will have a good, fresh sprinter ready to race throughout the season. It's definitely going to bring better consistency to the team but for the first half of the season at least I think the program has worked really well with me doing the first few races and Luke focusing on the track.
"I'm starting with Taiwan and after that Tour of Japan which is a big objective for me as well. But I'll have to see what the calendar has in store for the second half of the year."
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