“I’ve been presented with an awesome opportunity and another part of my cycling career is about to begin. In 2014, I’ll be part of the Trek Factory Racing team. It’s a new beginning and it’s been quite a ride to get here.”
Calvin Watson has known since August that he will be part of cycling’s so-called WorldTour in 2014. He signed a contract with the re-named, re-branded team that includes some of the biggest stars in the sport. A few days shy of his 21st birthday, Watson will set off on another odyssey brought about by the fact that he can ride a bike well.
Watson writes about his negotiations and expectations in the up-coming issue of RIDE Cycling Review (due out in November). He admits that his name might not be the one many would have thought about when considering who the next Australian on the WorldTour circuit may be, but the Victorian takes it in his (very long) stride.
“I’d say that there would have been some surprised faces when they heard. Off to the WorldTour? Yep! That’s what’s happening. I started cycling when I was 12 and I’ve raced under-15s, under-17s – all the way through to that critical moment in January 2013 when victory in the Jayco-Herald Sun Tour set things in motion for the next phase of my career.”
Watson: Versatile and ready for action…
– By Rob Arnold
He’s 192cm tall and weighs in for racing at “72 or 71kg, give or take a bit”. Calvin Watson doesn’t know how to classify himself as a cyclist but he’s aware that he’s been given a great opportunity to find out what it is that he does best on the bike. “I wouldn’t say I’m a pure climber but I can definitely climb well,” he admitted early in October 2013, when he was still part of the Jayco-AIS WorldTour Academy. The team was set up as a development program and the name spells out both who is backing the scheme and what the intentions are. Jayco is the brand that Gerry Ryan built long before he started walking with dinosaurs and dabbling in cycling; now he’s got the GreenEdge and a team that’s won at some of cycling’s biggest events. And, together with the AIS, he’s backing what is effectively a feeder team… for the WorldTour. Okay, there are some on the roster from 2013 who have graduated: Damien Howson, the under-23 TT world champion, will join Orica-GreenEdge next year, and Caleb Ewan has already signed up to be part of the same pro team in 2015… and there are others from the class of 2013 who will be in the WorldTour as early as next year. But not with Gerry’s squad.
Watson is one of the new wave of Australian riders in the WorldTour. His talents were recognised in Australia – with the victory in the Jayco-Herald Sun Tour in January setting him up for a ride in the Santos Tour Down Under where he was on the attack regularly – and next year he’ll be based in Europe racing for an American-registered team.
Watson has had good advice from, amongst others, Dave Sanders (VIS) and James Victor (AIS) but that’s all about to change and he’s not too sure what to expect from his debut season with the Trek Factory Racing team in 2014. “I’m better on shorter, steep sorts of climbs. I wouldn’t say I’m going to be mountain goat but in the future I guess I’d like to look at stage races. But I also love the Classics as well so at Trek there’s going to be a strong focus on the one-day races.”
Sanders has a long history in Australian cycling and he’s arguably been responsible for more Aussies turning pro than any other coach. For him, the joy is in watching his guys develop and become racers. The results then follow and so too the progression of their careers. And while Watson remains uncertain of what races will be on his program with Trek in 2014, he knows what his body is capable of and will be happy to explore what can be achieved as he further matures, physically and mentally.
“I’ve always worked with power so it’s an interesting idea to try and isolate an example,” he replied when asked what sort of numbers he can generate when he’s on a good day. Watson has had a few good days over the years and the honour roll of the Baw Baw Classic reminds us of this. He’s in good company. And he remembers his output on the day of his second victory in that race (in 2011, when he won A-grade… a year after his success in B-grade as a 17-year-old).
“I tend to think about when I won the Mount Baw Baw race. That’s around a six kilometre climb and for that I averaged 390 watts.”
Knowing what output can be achieve when in good form is part of modern cycling. And Watson recognises the times in which he’s racing. If technology can help him understand his job better, why wouldn’t he use it?
“I’m all about riding to data,” he said after referencing some of his SRM figures by way of an explanation of what sort of rider he is. “You train with data every day and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t look at it in a race. ‘Froomie’ might have, as they say, always been looking at his SRM but when you’ve done all the climbs and you know what power you can ride at then it makes sense to look because that’s the reality: the numbers that you’re putting out tell the story. You know what you can hold and I’m all for racing that way.
“It’s just the way that modern-day cycling is going, isn’t it? They’re eliminating the guesswork. I don’t think it takes away from the beauty of the race.”
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He’s young and ambitious yet grateful for the opportunities he’s been given. The influence of Sanders and Victor will remain for it’s under guidance from these two coaches that he has matured into a rider with the talent to catch the attention of a team like Trek. In 2014, however, he will finally get to work with a program that has been specifically designed with him – and him only – in mind. It’s all part of the planning by Luca Guercilena, a manager at Trek and Watson’s main point of contact with the team.
“I’ve just started working with the Trek coach for next year, he’s a Spanish guy, and I guess my training is going to change quite a lot – which I’m excited about. It’ll eliminate some guesswork I think but I can’t tell you a huge amount about it because it’ll be my first time working with a full-on trainer, someone who just cares about what I’m doing.
“When you’re in the AIS, you follow a group program so it’s not really tailored to what you need and what your abilities are. So I can’t yet give you a huge insight into what I’ll be doing but I guess it’ll start off quite tranquillo.”
Watson has been keeping RIDE up to date as he prepares for the upcoming season. He is the ‘mystery’ rider from a poll on our Facebook page asking who “the next” Australian in the WorldTour would be. There was a decent reaction but only one reader nominated Calvin Watson as that rider – congrats to Daniel Strauss for his guess, no prize but you picked the right guy.
And it was Watson who sent in the photo of a “stealth” black Trek Madone last week that prompted the #StoryOfMyBike concept. His future team will be one of four in the WorldTour that has a bike company as a naming-rights sponsor. (Trek has taken the plunge – joining Cannondale, BMC and co-sponsor Merida – for the 2014 season.) And the young Australian recruit has promised to keep RIDE posted with his observations of the switch from his Scott Foil to the Madone.
This is part of the story of a rider on the rise on a team that’s a mix of old and new. And it’s fun to be part of that odyssey… even if it is just as an observer.
RIDE Media publishes both the Official Tour de France Guide (Australian Edition) as well as RIDE Cycling Review, a quarterly magazine all about cycling.
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