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White reflects on stellar '08

It's 12 months since Matt White's last race as a professional

It's 12 months since Matt White's last race as a professional (Image credit: Brad Hooker)

By Les Clarke

A new team, new job and new challenges awaited Matt White this year. After a riding career that included stints at Cofidis and US Postal, the respected Australian stayed within the fold as a directeur sportif for the Garmin-Chipotle squad.

His season boasted a host of highlights, with the team time trial win in the Giro, Christian Vande Velde's stirling performance in the Tour de France and the announcement that the outfit would be part of the ProTour in 2009 just a few of the achievements that White had a hand in.

Cyclingnews spoke to White after the Cronulla International GP (Australian Criterium Championships) last weekend, a race he won last year as a swan song to life on the bike. "It's been a big year for the team and for myself," he began. "We went to the Tour de France, and I was the only member of the staff [for that race] who had been to the Tour before."

White admitted that he had learnt as much as the young riders he was in charge of, and after the many highs of this season, he knows that the next 12 months may not be as meteoric but rewarding nevertheless. "I've learnt a lot. There are always some problems with teams – a few hiccups – and pro cycling is a very dynamic job," he explained. "Put it this way – 12 months ago we were a very young team without that much experience, and so a year down the track it's going to be a lot easier.

"We had a super year, and it's going to be hard for us to improve on it in a lot of ways," he continued. "There are only three spots to go up in the Tour, and there are a few big players coming back into the game, with Contador, Leipheimer, and obviously Lance Armstrong." White was team-mates with all three before retiring, and now faces them as a rival directeur sportif, although given the affable nature that made him a favourite with riders and fans during his career, there'll be no hard feelings from either corner.

"Our big goal – and we make no secret of it – is the team time trial," he said. "If we can pop that win, then whatever Christian does is going to be a bonus."

Although the Grand Tours will be a focus, he was quick to point out the importance of season-long success. "It's going to be hard to improve on our result at the Tour, but there are 150-200 race days where we can win races," he said.

Martyn Maaskant has been one of the team's revelations in 2008, after a stellar showing at Paris-Roubaix. "He [Maaskant] did well this year, and he and Trent [Lowe] will be our guys for the Ardennes," said White. "Neither of them have had much experience in the Ardennes, but they're certainly the men for those races. Then we'll take Trent to the Tour de France."

Yet another pairing that may bear fruit in '09 is Cameron Meyer and Chris Sutton. Both enjoy a track background, and combined well to take second in the Madison at last month's track world cup in Melbourne [/track/2008/worldcup0809/melbourne08/?id=results/melbourne086]. Given their form in this event, the prospect of them hitting the road together is exciting. "At the moment they'll both be at Down Under and Langkawi, and then after April Cam will head back to the track to concentrate on the World Championships in April before we use them together in the Sun Tour near the end of the year," he said.

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