A knee injury sustained at a French Nations Cup race after his Giro Valle Aosta victory in July saw Rob Power miss the majority of the 2015 season with the Australian national U23 team but the Australian has been back on his bike for the last "three to four weeks" and is looking forward to his first season in the WorldTour ranks with Orica-GreenEdge.
"It's going well, I am back training but it's still nice and slow, not full gas as it's still early in the off-season. It's definitely going well," Power told Cyclingnews of his recovery from the injury. An injury to his other knee at 13 while playing rugby saw Power swap the football field for the velodrome and he hasn't looked back since.
Having become the first Australian to finish on the podium at the Tour de l'Avenir in 2014, 20-year-old Power then became the the first Australian to win the Italian Giro Valle Aosta stage race in preparation for the 'U23 Tour de France' only for his crash to not only end his aspirations for the race, but also end his U23 career.
"It was a Nations Cup race that I came down really hard and smashed my knee. With knees and injuries like that, it just takes a lot of time," he reflected on the crash, adding he didn't think it much it initially. "I thought I'd be ok. I got back up and get back into peloton. I knew it was sore but I thought I'd be all right and did another 50km but then it started to feel worse and worse."
With Power missing from the U23 team for l'Avenir, Jack Haig made it two second place overall finishes for Australia finishing behind Movistar rider Marc Soler. Haig will also ride in the colours of Orica-GreenEdge next season and along with Power the duo are considered future grand tour hopefuls for Australia . Explaining it was "exciting" to see friend and teammate Haig finish on the podium, Power added he was frustrated to be stuck on the sidelines with his injury.
"Seeing Jack getting second was really exiting but also it was really frustrating after Aosta when all of sudden you can't race and your season is done. Like all things though, that's just sport. It was really good though watching guys like Jack and Miles [Scotson] at l'Avenir and seeing them put in awesome rides."
With his season aim of repeating his podium finish at l'Avenir going up in smoke, Power nevertheless believes he took a lot out of the year as a whole and learnt some important lessons.
"The aim was just to keep learning and keep developing. l'Avenir was a big one for 2015 but obviously not being able to race it changed my goals a lot. I think I still got a lot of the year and it was tough season but one I learnt a lot from," he said. "I think recovery was a big thing I learnt this year. You definitely need to spend time to learn how to recover and be patient with injuries, taking your time and not coming back too fast."
Although his Orica-GreenEdge deal was announced in January, having a professional contract for 2016 and beyond didn't play on his mind while racing this season with Power focused solely on winning races or helping teammates do so.
"It was but in a way at the end of the day winning bike races is what we are here for so if you have a contract or not I don't think it really matters. You're not going to turn up to races and take it easy because you have a contract, I wanted to go to races and do my best in every single race, be that helping out the guys or trying to win."
Power started his 2015 season with a debut Tour Down Under appearance, followed by the Jayco Herald Sun Tour where he finished sixth overall before returning to U23 races. Having also ridden the 2.1 Tour d'Azerbaïdjan, the 1.1 one-day races Coppa Agostoni and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and the 2014 Jayco Herald Sun Tour, Power won't be completely green when starting his GreenEdge career.
"I think it's harder for longer," he said of what he expects from the pro ranks. "I think the races get a lot faster towards the end and really build up whereas in U23 racing it's really fast from the start then trying to hang on towards the end. I think for the pros it starts a little easier and then gets harder and harder and by the finish it's really fast. I think I still have a lot to learn and I haven't done a lot of pro races but I am really excited though."
With Caleb Ewan and the Yates twins, Adam and Simon, all making their grand tour debuts in their first neo-pro season, GreenEdge have shown a willingness to take young riders to the three week races but Power is unsure just yet if he will be doing the same.
"Not too sure, would depend on how the first half of my season would go," he said of riding a grand tour. "It's really hard to predict going pro and it's going to be a bit of a waiting game," said Power is is set to make his debut with the team at the Australian national championships. "GreenEdge is a great team for me next year and with neo-pros they seem to do it really well. They give guys opportunities and give them at the right time. I am really happy to be joining the team."
Power along with his teammates will have a clearer idea of what to expect in 2016 once they embark on a training camp from November 15 in Australia. Included in the training camp is a day spent at team owner Gerry Ryan's winery Mitchelton Wines in Nagambie for the river and ranges ride. 12-months ago Cyclingnews spotted Power at the event, raising suspicion of him joining the team before the official announcement was made, but fast forward to the present and the West Australian is looking forward to officially be part of the team and enjoying the day as an Orica-GreenEdge rider.
"Getting to know the guys, the team, and all the staff. That's a big one and the training camp is really good for that. The winery is another day of the training camp and it's great to ride with all the locals and the fans. It's a great day starting and finishing at the Mitchelton winery there in Nagambie and I am really looking forward to it."
To enter the river and ranges winery ride, click here