No hard feelings: A conversation with Cameron Meyer

MELBOURNE, Australia (VN) — He may not have raced as much as he’d like to this season, but Cameron Meyer says he’s parting ways with his incumbent employer, Garmin-Cervélo team manager Jonathan Vaughters, sans acrimony.

2011 Tour Down Under. Cameron Meyer
Meyer's Tour Down Under win was a highlight of his time at Garmin. Photo: Graham Watson

MELBOURNE, Australia (VN) — He may not have raced as much as he’d like to this season, but Cameron Meyer says he’s parting ways with his incumbent employer, Garmin-Cervélo team manager Jonathan Vaughters, sans acrimony.

“Of course I would’ve liked to have had a few more races this season but it’s understandable — I’ve made the decision to move onto the GreenEdge cycling team next year,” Meyer told VeloNews at the Herald Sun Tour.

“And because of that, there’s youngsters in the team that are going to get starts in races that he’ll develop and might have a contract with the team for longer. So, I understand the reasons.

“I’m happy with the last three years. I’m really thankful to Jonathan (Vaughters) for giving me the opportunity to race with his team; I’ve ridden the Giro d’Italia, Tour de Suisse, and had some really good race starts, so I don’t regret anything about the last three years. It’s been great for my development.”

The pinnacle of his time at Garmin-Cervélo, he says, was his overall victory in this year’s Tour Down Under.

There in South Australia, the first WorldTour race on the 2011 calendar, Meyer defied the odds that said a sprinter would most likely win — first placing himself into contention with an audacious breakaway victory; a day later backing that up with a solid ride on the Willunga Hill stage; then finally holding off compatriot Matthew Goss’ last-ditch charge on the circuit race around Adelaide.
It was further proof that in cycling, brain can often beat brawn.

“That was probably my biggest highlight, winning my first WorldTour race. Getting a start at the Giro at such a young age was (also) real crucial to my development; I think I learnt a lot out from it, (gaining) experience and maturity, and hopefully, I can use that, going onto what I’ve got in store in the next couple of years.”

While his program is not yet set in stone, in store for Meyer, who will be in GreenEdge colors coming into the 2012 season, will be a title defense at the Tour Down Under in January, the World Track Championships in Melbourne in March, and a possible ride in the Giro d’Italia.

From then on, his focus will narrow considerably: it is his unquenchable desire to be one of the four key members representing Australia’s team pursuit squad at the London Games — and of course, to regain the crown they ceded to the Great Britain team in Beijing, three years ago.

One of those British members is likely to be Bradley Wiggins, who recently said he will not forgo a ride at next year’s Tour de France just so he can concentrate on either the team pursuit or road time trial in London. Given no Australian will follow such an approach with their team pursuit squad, does Meyer think it is realistic, even for one as talented as Wiggins?

“I think it could be possible for a guy like Bradley. He’s a lot older, he’s got a lot more experience and ridden a lot more grand tours, so I think his knowledge of being able to handle both will be a lot different to what the Australian team (will comprise of).

“I’m actually the oldest in the team — the rest of the team is made up of Jack Bobridge, Michael Hepburn… it’s a very young squad who haven’t ridden so many grand tours — (and) never ridden the Tour de France before — so, I think for us, it will be more about the (training) camp (-style) races going into the Olympics, rather than riding a grand tour.”

Touted as a future Grand Tour rider, as much as the Australian public would like it to be, Meyer says it’s far too early to say. “I think I need to prove it to myself before I can prove it to the public first,” he said.

“I need to go into races like the Tour of Romandie, Paris-Nice (and the) Tour of Suisse and do well on the general classification before I can look towards grand tours. And I’m still young and developing and I’m still riding the track — and there’s still ambitions there — so I think, over the next couple of years, when I fully focus on the road, I’d like to experiment with GC-riding in those smaller tours and see where it takes me.”

Will he give the track away after the Games in London, then?

“Yeah, I think so. I think, once the Olympic year is done, I’ll focus the next couple of years after that solely on the road. I’d like to see where I can go in those one-week tours, and see whether I can develop into a general classification rider. That’s ultimately where my capabilities lie, with the time trialing and being able to climb … I’ve definitely got to start with something smaller, and those one-week stage races are what I’ll be looking (towards) after the Olympic year.”

With his proficiency in road time trialing already world-class — albeit not quite world-beating – Meyer says it will be his ability to climb the high mountains — and lots of them — that will require the most attention.

“You see guys like Cadel Evans, who’s the best at the world at it … they’re putting out their maximum performances at the end of 200 kilometers, on the last 15 kilometers of Alpe d’Huez or something. It’s a lot different to where I’ve come from on the track, where it’s really short, intense efforts. I can go for short periods of time, but I’ve now got to increase that over a hill that could be 40 minutes long, and I think that’s what I’ve got to work (on).”

A notoriously hard worker who assiduously goes about his goal-setting and goal-getting, it would take either a brave or stupid man to say he can’t do it. For now, though, the only certainty is that he’ll give it his best shot.

Editor’s Note: Realizing life in advertising was nothing like Mad Men and buoyed by the Olympic Games in his Australian hometown of Sydney, Anthony Tan turned his back on a lucrative copywriting career in 2000 in pursuit of something more cerebral. Combining wordsmithing with his experiences as an A-Grade club racer and an underwhelming season competing in Europe, a career as a cycling scribe beckoned… More than 10 Grand Tours and countless Classics later, it’s where he still is today. He has been a contributor to VeloNews since 2006. In 2010, he won Cycling Australia’s media award for best story.