At 23, Brendan Canty is far from being one of the youngest neo-pros in the peloton next season but the Australian's progression over the last two-years suggests he will be more prepared for life as a full time professional cyclist than some of his younger colleagues.
In 2014 Canty was riding a selection of National Road Series (NRS) and Victorian Road Series (VRS) events with the Melbourne-based search2retain-health.com.au team, his early-season results landing a stagiaire ride at the Tour of Utah with Drapac Pro Cycling. Canty then signed for the Australian Continental BudgetForklifts team for 2015, again ending his season as a Drapac stagiaire racing the Abu Dhabi Tour, finishing in 13th place overall, earning a contract with the team from 2016.
Having spent just two seasons focusing on racing his bike as a professional, Canty doesn't mince his words when telling Cyclingnews that he is still learning and gaining experience but that hasn't curtailed his desire for victories.
"It's a bit of both, you’re out on the road trying to get results," Canty told Cyclingnews of whether his 2015 aims were gaining experience or results. "I think that's what every cyclist is trying to do. You want to train on the bike everyday to win or at least help your teammates get a win depending on what your role is. Being a pure climber, in any race where there is a big hill, my objective is to win the race or set up a teammate for a win."
"People look at me and say 'I am climber' and I would agree that I excel in the hills and longer climbing so that will be a focus for me next year," he said. "At the same time, I don't think I come across as a rider with a single skill set. I think I surprised a few people with taking the time trial win at the Tour de Beauce and showing that I can do reasonable results against the clock. In that regard, I suppose I am a climber but also have some versatility and can help the team in different scenarios. For example, if the team want me to ride GC or ride on the front on the flat I can be useful as well."
On the day Canty beat the likes of teammate Jack Bobridge and Toms Skujins but couldn't help think of how his GC aspirations were dented from a previous day crash.
"It was a really big surprise for me, to be honest, and the previous day was the hilltop finish and I was involved in a pile up at the base of the climb and that ruled me out for a good result on the climb and GC overall. I woke up feeling a bit sore the next day and didn't really expect too much but as soon as I started that time trial, I could tell I was pushing pretty good numbers as I had my computer going. I didn't expect too much but I still did a proper warm up and went out there thinking I'll give it my all and came away with the win. That was my only UCI win in the end and kind of ironic how it came about. I kept thinking that if I wasn't involved in the crash I might have been able to run high on the GC as well."
Canty's results and progress in North America saw Bobridge take on a mentoring role and look after his younger teammate.
"He was really good because he knows I have a lot to learn and could see my progression throughout the year. He kept saying 'you're improving a lot but you need to be working on these things' so it was good mix of him looking after me and offering advice," he said. "Despite his background and experience, I was the rider he was looking after in Utah and Colorado and he had no problems sacrificing himself for me. Whenever I could, I'd try to help him out as well. It was a really good year learning lots from Jack Bobridge."
It wasn't a win but placing fourth on the tough Arthurs Seat stage of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour to claim seventh place overall in February proved to be a crucial result for Canty, explaining it gave him confidence for the season ahead which saw him finish 11th overall at the 2.2 Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay and 18th overall at the 2.1 Tour of Utah.
"That was a really big result for me and a really big confidence boost to believe that I can be competitive against these guys," Canty said of the results' significance. "Orica-GreenEdge had their team there and you've seen what Patrick Bevin has done this year and who he's riding for next year. Showing that I was capable of climbing with the Orica-GreenEdge guys, I took a lot out of that to help me with my overseas races and the confidence that I need to believe that I can do it."
Looking ahead to 2016
With BudgetForklifts' late season racing calendar featuring NRS races not quite suited to Canty's characteristics, a second stagiaire ride with Drapac was a "win-win situation," he explained, adding "It was also another way for me to go out and meet the staff, management and riders from Drapac and also to get to know them a little better heading into 2016. From a transitional standpoint heading into next year, that was a bonus."
Although it was his first time in the Middle East and in a "desert", the heat was of little consternation to Canty who focused his energies instead on lining up against the likes of Astana's Fabio Aru and Vincenzo Nibali. Stage 3 to Jebel Hafeet was the only mountain stage of the Abu Dhabi race, won by Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), and upon re-watching a recording of the day by his mum and dad when back home, Canty explained the somewhat bizarre feeling of watching himself riding alongside top WorldTour riders as he finished 14th on the day.
"When I was watching it, I was quite surprised to be honest with how few people were left at the front end of the race and who the riders actually were. Even seeing where Philippe Gilbert dropped off and then made his way back to me later on in the climb, I think there is lot I can take away from take for sure. It was the first time I've really done a climb where the pace is that high," he said of his impressions of the stage.
With Drapac holding a Pro-Continental license and therefore unsure exactly what its race programme will be for 2016, Canty will have a clearer idea of what his race schedule is likely to look like following team meeting and a December camp in the Victorian town of Bright but as long as he's facing up against the top riders in the peloton he'll be content.
"I would be great to line up against the likes of the riders from Abu Dhabi a few more times next year and try and be competitive against them. In terms of saying I want to get a stage results here or there, it's too hard to say and there is no race in particular I have pencilled in that I really want to focus on," he said of his 2016 ambitions. "Once I sit down with management and get a really good understanding of what they expect from me, and what I think I am capable of the kind of races I think I am capable of doing, then I think I can come to a more objective and quantifiable goals for the year."
Following the training camp, Canty will likely line up at the Australian nationals but from there is unsure what is January schedule will look like with Drapac sending teams to the Tour Down Under, Tour de San Luis and the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in the first week of February.
"There's 17-riders in the team and obviously that's more than can race the Tour Down Under and Sun Tour so if I am not selected for those races then Drapac also has a start at Tour de San Luis as well," he said. "I've been reading about that and looking it over and it's quite a big race as well. There is a conflict there for the Tour Down Under and with where I am come from I think its reasonable if I don't get a start but at the same time its something I'd like to do and I've shown the team that I am interested in racing it. If Drapac thinks I am good enough to deserve a spot then I might be on the start list but I can't be certain."