Cam Wurf is returning to the professional peloton in 2017 after almost two years out of the sport. The 33-year-old has signed with Cylance in a move to facilitate his Ironman aspirations. The former Olympic rower spent several years at the top tier of the sport, most recently with Cannondale in 2014, but has since decided to focus his competitive hunger on Ironman competitions and more specifically, the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
"Cylance is a small team that Cannondale is associated with so it seemed like the perfect fit for me to be able to do a little bit of racing and ease my way back into that and also balance that schedule around my priorities in Ironmans," Wurf told Cyclingnews of the deal with the American Continental team.
"It is a great opportunity that Cannondale have given me and it is very motivating to qualify for Kona so that I can enjoy that period. For me, to prepare for Hawaii the best possible way is to do it that way."
Based in America for the majority of the year, Wurf is back in Tasmania for the summer as he targets next month's Australian national time trial title and Oceania time trial title in March. Cylance was due to race the Herald Sun Tour in early February only for a last-minute withdrawal due to the "logistics of getting a team organised and getting guys to Australia and so on."
While his trade team won't be racing across the Australian summer, Wurf is hoping to secure a berth on the national teams at the Tour Down Under, Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, and the Sun Tour off the back of strong performances at the Australian national championships.
"I'll do the nationals and I'll have a chat with the selectors and see if I can get a spot for some of the other races and then from there through to June I will be focusing on qualifying for Hawaii as a professional which obviously requires points and targeting races where you get the points to qualify," he added.
In 2015, Wurf had a "sabbatical" from cycling but found he needed a competitive outlet. He decided upon triathlons and despite limited preparation and training, he started to do "pretty well". He then spent a week with Lachlan and Gus Morton, and Taylor Phinney filming Thereabouts 2 with the quartet riding from Boulder, Colorado, to Moab, Utah, realising that "I really wanted to still be involved in sport and at the highest level. And also that I am probably capable of achieving something in sport somewhere."
With some encouragement from Phinney, who said that that if Wurf was a triathlete, then "you should be doing triathlons", he entered his first Ironman and qualified for Hawaii. Wurf then set about planning and preparing only to be undone by a mountain bike accident which left him with a broken foot and "ruined any preparation which I would have for Hawaii"
"I figured maybe this is a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Wurf, who had his moon boot taken off just ten days before the race. "If I don't go I probably deserve to have the other foot broken. I still did reasonably well considering the broken foot and the preparation I had, so I certainly got encouraged by people who know the sport quite well like Craig Alexander who said I should consider have a crack properly."
A sit down with Cannondale saw Wurf decide to focus on triathlons and make the bike his strongest leg. In 2016, he started off the year by working on his weaker legs, swimming and running, which were starting to show signs of progress. However, the Cairns Ironman in June went awry with Wurf "peeing blood halfway through the marathon just due to the nutrition, which was something I didn't really work on and brought me undone."
Wurf then set about working on his running with six back-to-back weeks of 150km plus that soon saw him breakdown with injury and leave him unable to run. He could "barely walk" but riding and swimming were ok and it was during this period in July that Wurf decided to focus on the Australian summer and plot his return to professional cycling.
"It was quite depressing for me this year when I couldn't race due to injury, it felt like I was achieving nothing," he said. "I couldn't do anything and that was quite frustrating because I could still ride my bike quite well. I was annoyed that I wasn't in a position where I could do some racing."
With the cut off for Hawaii qualification at the end of July, Wurf will re-focus on triathlon after the Australian summer and is then hoping for a block of racing with Cylance to ensure he is sharp for the October event. And should injury hinder his Ironman aspirations, he will still be able to race and compete with Cylance on the bike.
"The cycling was a way of getting me back on the road so that should something go wrong, again, injury wise or whatever and I can't race the Ironmans like I want to. Then, I can do some road racing and still be competing at a high level and doing what I can do quite well," he said.
"The important thing is to go out there and try and achieve something"
Back in his home state for a week, Wurf has been out training with BMC's Richie Porte and clocking up the miles with the duo recording 600km in just three days. While there are no plans to replicate the 400km 'Ritchie's birthday party' ride of 2014, Wurf, Porte and Will Clarke (Drapac) are planning on riding across the state in late-January or early-February.
The week before Wurf flew back to Australia, he decided, on a whim after a charity event in Miami and on his way back to LA, to compete in the Arizona Ironman. Wurf wasn't sure of his objectives for the race besides not "jeopardising" his upcoming Australian summer. With a relaxed approach, Wurf recorded his best Ironman to date with a blistering bike leg that saw him finish in a time of 8:27:53 in 14th place.
"In the Ironman, I averaged 327 watts for three hours," said Wurf who pushed himself into the lead for the start of the run. "I look back at my data from racing through the WorldTour and the highest power I did was at the 2013 Giro on the first stage where I tried to attack solo and I did 330 watts for three hours. After that, I could barely walk up the steps of the bus, let alone run a marathon."
His next outing was at the Stan Siejka Classic in Launceston late last-month, Wurf's first race for 18-months, where a snapped chain ended his day after good sensations. Wurf's next competitive outing will be the national time trial on January 5 where he will simply focus on riding as fast as possible to better his fourth places of 2008 and 2009.
"Brad McGee said to me last year at Oceania where I was third, which is still one of the better TTs I have done even though I was way out of shape, ‘mate, forget about your power meter and just focus on going fast.' At the end of the day, it's about getting to from a to b as quick as possible, it is not about how much power you do. I am looking forward to racing with that mentality and seeing where that puts me."
Wurf is yet to ride the course but has good information on the challenging parcours from Porte, who won in 2015 and was second in 2016.
"Richie put it pretty well when he said you have to get out to the turn around as quickly as you can then suffer like hell for 25 minutes on the way home," he said.
The national time trial will be Wurf's first race back as a professional but he isn't coming back to cycling to settle any scores or seek "redemption". He is making a comeback to give it his all and leave it all out on the road.
"The important thing is to go out there and try and achieve something, do your best and have a go. You may as well, you are there, put on a show. There is no point floating about. Every time I race a triathlon, I go into it with that mentality. I just want to get to the front and be there as long as I can. I feel like I am a much more competitive person. I am looking forward to getting back into a road race," he said. "I have a made a lot of mistakes in my cycling career. I have been given all the opportunities in the world and by my own admission, I haven't made the most of them. Everyone would know that. Not that I am coming back for redemption or anything like that, I have a clear goal of where I want to get to and what I want to achieve and every time I compete I am going to give it 100 percent.
"First things first, this time racing I have to prove myself with results as opposed to what I might be able to do. A lot of people have talked about what I might be able to do and I have talked about a lot what I might do forever. I have learned the hard way that all that matters is getting the results."
For Wurf, the return to cycling is all for the time trial and seeing what he can do on the biggest stage of all at the World Championships. Wurf rode the 2007 and 2009 Worlds for Australia in the time trial and believes that he has found the niche that saw him step away from the sport at the end of 2014.
"I would be lying if I said it isn't. I really want to see what I can do in the time trial," he said. "As far as road racing goes, Aldo Sassi had big ambitions for me. He thought I would be a Grand Tour rider and I didn't have whatever it was I didn't have. Maybe it was physiology but it would appear that physiology isn't my issue. Obviously racing intelligence, maybe dedication. A few things meant that I was never doing to achieve that but the TT, after spending so much time on the bike I might never be anywhere near the mark but I would like to find out if I can be."