AFRICAN Wildlife Safaris team director Joel Pearson expects Mortlake export Darcy Woolley to impress in his Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic debut today.
The two-time Melbourne to Warrnambool winner has mentored Woolley and watched him develop in his first semi-professional season.
Woolley, 20, has competed in four National Road Series (NRS) tours for African Wildlife Safaris, taking out the Tour of the Great South Coast’s most aggressive rider jersey in August.
Pearson said Woolley was a strong endurance rider suited to the iconic race.
“Darcy will be going into the race in pretty good form,” he said. “He’s just completed the Tour of Tasmania, which is probably Australia’s most gruelling tour on the National Road Series, so any rider who finished that in recent weeks has a distinct advantage.
“He is an aggressive rider with a good capacity to ride long races.”
Pearson said African Wildlife Safaris had altered Woolley’s role to better suit his style.
“We changed his role halfway through the year to try and go for the green jersey, which matches his profile well because he likes to attack and be in front, like he was in the Tour of the Great South Coast, so that is maximising his style,” he said.
“He needs to listen to people around him to reach his goals. He needs to refine a few areas.”
Woolley, who credited coach Andy Graham and his new team for his improvement, said he took confidence into the historic race.
“It’s my first one so I am a little bit nervous but I am looking forward to it,” he said.
“I am going in there to win it like any other race but am just hoping to finish with the main bunch and see if we can pull something off.
“If it’s a side wind it will be critical to be up the front in a holding position because if you are in the back you might be out of position all day.”
Woolley, who admitted he needed to work on his speed and improve his eating habits, has completed four NRS tours this season — Tour of Gippsland, Tour of Great South Coast, Tour of the Murray and Tour of Tasmania.
The Melbourne-based cyclist will also ride in the Shipwreck Coast Classic tomorrow.
Eight of African Wildlife Safaris’ 13 riders will contest the Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic.
“We are quite young and don’t have much experience in regards to the Warrnambool, apart from Stephen Waite who is 35, so there is a bit of maturity there, and Nick Squillari,” Pearson said.
“Apart from that we’re quite green. We’ll try and be opportunistic.”