Cameron Wurf Interview: Qinghai Lake runner up on year one with Champion System
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Monday, August 13, 2012

Cameron Wurf Interview: Qinghai Lake runner up on year one with Champion System

by Ed Hood at 5:07 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
Australian building up for USA Pro Cycling Challenge

Cameron Wurf

Whilst Team Sky was dragging the Tour peloton around France, another battle were being fought out; no less desperate, but at much higher altitudes.

China’s 13 stage Tour of the Qinghai Lakes was first held in 2002 with Tom Danielson of the USA as the first winner.

Since then, Damiano Cunego, Maarten Tjallingii, Tyler Hamilton and the late Ryan Cox have all triumphed around China’s largest lake, which sits at 10,515 feet, with the climbs going up from that altitude.

This year’s edition was won by Iranian rider Hossein Alizadeh (Tabriz Petro Chemicals) – but there was a dramatic reshuffle of the GC pack on the final stage.

Champion System’s Tasmania former Pro Tour rider, Cameron Wurf had been holding third spot in the ranking but slipped to fourth.

But in a last stage time bonus battle, the former Liquigas rider fought back to take second spot on the podium. It was a major result for the Continental team, particularly as it is in its first season and was competing on home soil.

It has a goal of securing a WorldTour licence within four or five years, and its path from startup to Tour de France is enhanced by every big result.

Looking back to his early career, Wurf didn’t take the traditional team pursuit route to the peloton.

Originally an Olympic rower, in 2007, his first serious year as a rider, he won the prestigious Chrono Champenois and the Oceania Games individual time trial title.

That season he rode for the US team, Priority Health; moving to Austrian team Volksbank for the following season.

In 2009 he stepped up to the top top division with Mauro Gianetti’s Fuji-Servetto team in Spain. For 2010 he was in Italy with Gianni Savio’s Androni team – with whom he rode the Giro.

He remained in Italy, last season, moving to ‘super squadra’ Liquigas, with fifth overall in the Tour of Turkey his best result.

For season 2012 the 28 year-old is with Asia’s first Pro Continental team – Champion System.

Wurf was on the golf course in Tasmania when he took the call from VeloNation. He’s since ridden the Tour of Utah, riding aggressively yesterday and finishing 44th overall. He’ll hope to step it up a notch in the US Pro Cycling Challenge, which begins in one week’s time.

VeloNation: Your pro first team was in the US, Cameron?

Cameron Wurf:
That came about through my coach. He was a friend of the owner of the team – they gave me a trial on the road.

I won the Chrono Champenois, that year…Shayne Bannan took me to that one, he drove with my bike, whilst I flew.

That ride got me a spot with Volksbank for 2008; I got my first win on the road with them and also met Aldo Sassi that year.

VN: How did you get the Fuji ride?

CW: I’d began to work with Aldo at the Mapei Training Centre. If teams saw that Aldo had faith in you then that was a good calling card.

Mauro Gianetti was good to me, he saw that I had potential, he would organise training camps for me, his son and other young riders in the team.

But I ended up with glandular fever; I was doing too much, too soon - it was a bad experience.

VN: How did the Androni ride come about?

CW: The French journalist, Jean Francois Quinet and Aldo recommended me.

The experience helped me get the most out of myself as a rider – helping a rider like Scarponi. I didn’t find the Giro too bad, it was my first Grand Tour and by the third week I was coming into my own.

If you trained to an Aldo Sassi plan then you worked pretty hard and I just assumed that I’d survive the race.

Into that third week, when everyone was tired, I was finding I could do more work for Scarponi

VN: And then you went to Liquigas?

CW: Aldo made the introduction; they came to see me at the Tre Valli Varesine, I was in the break that day and they made me an offer.

I became very friendly with Ivan Basso – we rode a similar programme.

But my season was blighted by illness and injury – I rode the Tours of Turkey and the California, where I picked up a stomach parasite.

I was pencilled in for the Tour but couldn’t ride because of that.

Then I was meant to ride the Vuelta, but broke a rib – it was a disastrous year.

VN: How did the Champion System ride come about?

CW: I’d assumed that I’d be with Liquigas for this season, but there was a mix up between my agent and the team so there was no ride for me.

It was late in the season when I found out, but Ed Beamon picked me up for Champion System.

And Andrew Christie-Johnson of the Tasmanian Genesys team put a strong word in for me.

VN: Tell us about Qinghai – what’s it like racing at that altitude?

CW: It was my first time racing at 3,900 metres, but I’d had experience of racing at altitude in the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico.

I was glad of that experience – it’s crucial that you don’t push too hard. If you go into the red, you don’t come back out.

You lose power and have to adopt an approach that recognises those factors. It’s hard to compete with the guys from Columbia and Iran who are used to those conditions.

It reminded me of my experience at the Giro…I was stronger in the second week than I was in the first. The race isn’t as tough as a World Tour race but the altitude adds another variable.

VN: I believe that it’s a race where it’s very easy to pick up illness?

CW: I picked up a stomach bug after three days and it wasn’t until the last three days that I was back to feeling good.

You’re always careful about what you eat, but at Qinghai you have to super-careful.

VN: Was the Iranian winner impressive?

CW: He was a very good rider, he never missed a beat.

They’re strong guys – Lotto has one of them on the books for this season.

VN: Tell us about moving up from fourth to second on the last day…

CW: The race was decided on bonuses. I didn’t lose much, but I didn’t gain much – especially when I was ‘crook.’

But in the final days, the team pushed me to be more confident and made me go for it.

They set me up for the bonus sprints and it worked out – it was a really nice result.

What’s next?

CW: It was recently announced that we’re riding the Tours of Utah and Colorado, so we’re very excited about that – especially after we missed out on California.

California was an objective of mine but missing it meant that I went to Qinghai, instead . . .

We also have the late season Chinese Tours to look forward to.

VN: Away from cycling, you play some golf..?

CW: Yeah, I play off a nine handicap – I play as much as I can, which can be difficult, during the season.

I have clubs in my apartment in Varese – which is my European base – I’m not good at doing nothing, so golf is great relaxation for me.


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