Calvin Watson may have just ended his neo-pro season with Trek Factory Racing at the Tour of Beijing but the 21-year-old is already looking ahead to 2015 with the WorldTour team. After a long season that saw Watson compete in both the first and last races of the WorldTour calendar, the Australian is in the midst of enjoying a well-earned break.
"It's definitely been a great year and a massive learning experience for sure," Watson told Cyclingnews. "There has been a huge increase in racing coming from the amateurs in Italy to racing a lot of WorldTour races.
"It's been big step up but I think in my body and my mind, I've dealt with it well. I can definitely take a lot of positives away from this year and I am already looking forward to next year and putting all the new things that I've learnt into place and seeing where it takes me."
While Watson admitted that adjusting to the demands of WorldTour racing was difficult, he didn't feel out of place in the peloton.
"I never expected it to be easy," Watson said of his expectations of professional racing. "For sure at times it was very tough and maybe I underestimated how big a step it was going to be but it was definitely tough and I had some moments where I was just struggling to cope with the racing.
"On the other hand, I had moments where I just felt great and had really positive racing experiences. I was right amongst the action which was nice."
For each rider, their neo-pro season will have taught them something about themselves and their choice of career. Watson's number one lesson from 2014 was listen to his body.
"Having a bit more respect for your body and just learning when's the right time to train hard and when's the right time to let your body relax and recover from the racing," he said. "That was probably the biggest thing I learned throughout the year.
"Just learning from guys like Frank [Schleck] and other guys that I was at races with throughout the year and knowing when's the right time to get home from a stage race and just really let the body relax was another."
When Cyclingnews spoke to Watson in February, he explained that he aimed to reach the Critérium du Dauphiné in top shape. However, as he explained the rigours of life as a professional cyclist put those plans to bed.
"At the beginning of the year, the Dauphiné was going to be the last race before I had a little break in the mid-season but I actually ended up going to Tour de Romandie and then straight from there to Tour of California," he said. "After that, I was pretty run down and my body was just in need of rest and a bit of recovery, so in the end the team and myself came to the conclusion that it was probably best to miss the Dauphiné.
"It's one of those races that it's not really beneficial for myself and the team to be riding on my limit. We discussed that and in the end it was probably the best decision that I made as it meant I could have a short break and be ready for the second half of the year."
A change to his race programme saw Watson head back across the Atlantic for the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Challenge, the final races of Jens Voigt's career.
"It was a real honour to be with Jens in his last race," he said. "I was rooming with him in Utah and Colorado, and Colorado was a special moment to be part of his farewell race. I was lucky in that sense and I learnt a lot from Jens."
Another season highlight for Watson came early in the year when he was selected for La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Although he didn't finish the races, the experiences left him hungry for more appearances in the Ardennes.
"They were really cool races. It was really nice to be there because in the future I think I'll look to excel in those one-day races. So to go there this year as a neo-pro was really cool. Especially having Frank and Andy there as they're guys who have been in the top places for the last five years or so.
"It was definitely a lot of stress and pressure on the team to do well but I just really embraced the whole experience from being there and learning for the future. That was definitely a highlight of the season to line up at Liège and Fleche Wallonne."
Not wanting to typecast himself too early on in his career, Watson explained that while he enjoys one-day races he isn't declaring him a specialist at anything just yet with plenty of learning and improvement to come.
"I would look down that path at excelling in the one-day races but it's still kind of hard to mark myself as one thing. I am still only 21 so there is room for improvement and I am learning so I don't want to say that's the path that I'll take. I am just seeing where it all takes me at the moment."
That doesn't mean Watson is just going with the flow, explaining the necessity of keeping track of his ambitions.
"I think it's important to set goals and have a target so you don't get lost or fall into the position of just being a worker or doing the job for someone else. Especially for the younger riders, I think it's important not to lose the vision of winning. At the end of the day, we all want to win at some point in our career."
In 2015, Watson will be looking to make his grand tour debut and while nothing will be decided until at least December when he meets up with the team, he is hopeful of lining up at the Giro d'Italia in May.
"At this stage, we've thrown around the idea of doing the Giro which would be quiet cool," he said. "I've always enjoyed racing in Italy and racing as an amateur there has given me a soft spot in my heart. So to go to the Giro would be a great experience but it's hard to say at the moment. Once I speak to the team in December, I'll have a better idea."
December will also see Watson get a clearer picture of what his 2015 season will look like. Having finished his season in mid-October, an appearance at the Australian nationals in early-January may just be that, coming too early for Watson to enjoy a full off-season. One he is looking forward to.
"I hope after this break that I'll be able to come back and find a higher level than I have in the past. I am looking forward to that and I am ready to start working hard and prepare for next year.
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