|New Day Rising|
A tough start in the amateur ranks in Italy followed by two seasons of fast and furious racing in Portugal has prepared 25 year-old Australian Ben Day well for his debut in Division I with Palmans-Collstrop. Fellow Aussie and Cyclingnews diarist Scott Sunderland finds out a little more about the 2003 national time trial champion.
Cyclingnews: How did you get into cycling?
Ben Day: I always loved riding a bike, but my parents wouldn't let me have one until I was 13. Now I'm taking ultimate revenge! After high school I chose cycling as my number one sport and I turned pro in 2001!
CN: What type of rider is Ben Day?
BD: I'm a time trialist, a climber and I also like short stage races.
CN: How did you end up in Portugal?
BD: With a lot of luck, which is what is needed in this sport. After having two or three contracts offered to me at the end of the 2001 season, I was demoralised by having them torn apart due to financial troubles - better I didn't go to those teams now, I think - so I ended up desperately looking for something. Kristjan Snorrason had help from a Portuguese-Aussie by the name of Joao Serralheiro to find a Cat 2 team in Portugal. Unfortunately, Kristjan was unable to take his opportunity due to his injury, but fortunately for me, Kristjan arranged for me to take his spot on the team. I grabbed it with both hands.
CN: How did you experience the transfer to European pro racing?
BD: It is a lot harder - there's much more depth. But I love the culture of living in Europe. I spent six months racing in Italy in the incredibly difficult amateur ranks, which for all riders there, seems like a do-or-die affair. My team was crap; I never got paid as was promised, but was able to go to Poland to race in a professional tour where I won the first time trial stage and wore the yellow jersey.
Amateur racing in Italy is full on from the gun; they start hard and finish hard and these athletes in Italy are basically professional anyway - that is, it's their job - and it's a damn hard school. Professional racing in Portugal is similar to that style of racing, but they go harder - even the sprinter's stages are damn hilly and they like to race the riders over cobblestones and rough roads just to make sure you have a bit of everything.
CN: Why did you chose this Belgian team for 2004?
BD: My wish was to get into mainstream Europe; to get full value for my results and to race on the main stage. I'm not sure yet about my program for this season but I would really like to ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Amstel Gold and a few short stage races. My role in the team hasn't really been defined, but it's mainly to capitalise on time-trials, I think.
If the opportunity arises, I would like to race the Olympics, win four or five UCI races this year and end the season with 300-400 points. In the longer term, my goal is to ride the Tour de France. I want to grow as a cyclist to achieve the best possible results.
CN: What achievements do you rate as your best in your still very young career?
BD: Being Australian time trial champion in 2003, finishing 11th in the individual time trial at the World's, and winning the fifth stage of the Tour Down Under this year.