Winner of the inaugural NSW Grand Prix Criterium Series, Chris Sutton, believes that a 'back-to-basics' approach helped him exit the off-season period in strong condition and take out the five-race event.
He told Cyclingnews that an approach which included staying fit over the off-season with local bunch rides meant he could reach race fitness quicker than most at this time of the year, in the process being reminded of why he still loves the sport.
"I was staying fit through the off season by doing bunch rides at five in the morning; seeing everyone having a laugh and a coffee at the end of them reminded me that I still just love riding my bike," he explained.
A Sydney native, Sutton grew up in the city's southern beachside suburbs, around the area he won Sunday's Cronulla GP. It topped off a week that also included victories in the series rounds held in Parramatta and Gosford.
And while he has ridden races such as the Giro d'Italia for one of the world's biggest teams, Sutton enjoys the company of those who arguably know him best. "I've known all these guys [on the bunch rides] since I was 14... And I'm still the same guy. You've got to remember where you've come from and get a reality check sometimes," said Sutton.
The Team Sky rider also helped race organiser Phill Bates attract some of the world's best riders to the event - names such as Simon Gerrans, Mathew Hayman, Greg Henderson and Jeremy Hunt - all of whom are Sky teammates.
"Phill [Bates] only had six weeks to organise the event and it all came together," explained Sutton. "I hope it will get bigger and better. Events NSW and Honda did a great job sponsoring and their help was vital to the event's success."
With Sky's pre-season team camp behind him and wins on the board, Sutton now turns his attention to the Jayco Bay Series - where he'll start as one of the favourites for overall honours - and the Australian national championships, where Team Sky will be well-represented by himself, new recruit Michael Rogers, Gerrans and Hayman.
Looking further into the season, Sutton has one eye on a Tour de France berth, having ridden this year's Giro. "I'd love to ride the Tour - it's always been a dream - but I'm not in a hurry to ride it though, I'm still progressing."
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