The year started off great for Ben Day of the Fly V Australia team. He won the overall at the San Dimas Stage Race followed up by the win at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, giving the early lead in the NRC standings for a few weeks. The preparation for “a massive goal”, the Amgen Tour of California was all going to plan.
But then, as he described to Velonews, three weeks ago at the start of the SRAM Tour of the Gila, Day discovered he had a tapeworm.
“It’s amazing how quickly everything can derail. My training was going to well coming into Gila and then all of a sudden, the three steps forwards and four steps back.” said Day who decided to continue racing to hopefully regain his fitness and more health at both Gila and the Joe Martin Stage Race. The rider expected to keep on improving during the week before California.
The goal for the team at this year’s Tour of California is to be “big animators at the race” and to be active in every stage.
“We’ve shown that we’re the strongest team in the US this year and we want to do it on the international stage as well.” said Day.
Showcasing themselves is of prime importance for the Continental team given the mission of the team to become the first ever Australian ProTour team with 2012 as the goal.
While the Queen stage, the 135.3-mile (217.7-km) stage 6, with the final climb to Big Bear Lake is obviously a difficult stage, “it may not necessarily be the hardest day of the tour.”
“You can be on wheels most of the day.” explained Day. “You still have to be climbing very well just to stay with those guys but it’s not like the climb is terribly steep and there’s a long way from the climb to the finish.” The final 10 miles (or so) of the climb are flat after the descent off Big Bear.
Day does highlights stage 3, from San Francisco to Santa Cruz as a significant stage. Last year in horrendous weather conditions, Levi Leipheimer grabbed a 24 second lead after putting in a massive attack on the final climb up Bonny Doon with only Tom Petersen (Garmin) crossing the line ahead of him.
And then there are the sprint stages. “We’ve got some of the fastest guys in the US, and we want to prove that on the international stage.”
It’s all about showcasing the team. “First and foremost to animate the race, to challenge for some stages.” concluded Day. “For GC, Phil [Zajicek] and I should be up there to do what we can. At the end of the day, it’s hard to be first ahead of a Levi Leipheimer, Mick Rodgers, so the result pales a little bit in significance. Who wants to come home with a 5th or 6th? Even though that means you’re riding extremely well, in terms of recognition and coverage we get from it, a stage win counts for a hell of a lot more. We want to be mentioned on TV, we want to people to talk about Fly V Australia.”
Only one Fly V Australia rider finished last year’s Amgen Tour of California, 6 of the team were sick and the other 2 had injuries. In the end Day was the lone survivor. This year the team is ready, having previewed most of the stages and is sending a strong roster keeping their options open.
Watch Day discuss California after the tough third stage at Joe Martin.