WARRNAMBOOL cyclist Matt Lane will kick off what looms a big year on the bike with the Tour de Perth starting today.
Lane, 20, is one of eight Bianchi-DCM-Arbitrage cyclists who will contest the four-stage tour, the first event on the National Road Series calendar.
Melbourne-based Mortlake cyclist Darcy Woolley, 20, is also among the field and will ride for African Wildlife Safaris.
Stage one is a 45-kilometre criterium at Fremantle. A 116km road race, a 20km time trial and a 114km road race make up the other three stages. The Tour de Perth is one of two NRS events Lane will race before he leaves Australia in May for three months of racing and training in Europe.
He will be a worker for his teammates this week as he builds his fitness base, hoping to peak mid-year when he is overseas.
“At the moment (my fitness) is not really too great for the start of the season but it’s going to be a long season,” he said.
“I’m aiming for the middle of the year to be really going. The ones who aren’t peaking at the moment are working for the others boys who are going well.”
Lane said he and his teammates were in for a tough week in Perth. Their rivals include high-profile teams Drapac, Budget Forklifts and Avanti.
“There are two of the stages that are really brutal, really hard. They’ve changed them from last year,” he said.
“Last year there were three little climbs in one of the stages. This year we’ve got to go over them 13 times.”
Lane rode for Belgian team Bianchi-Lotto-NHT during a stint in Europe last year, emerging from the five months as a more well-rounded rider.
The former Emmanuel College student has raised the bar this time around, with “a few wins in Belgium” his burning ambition.
“It was a really good development step (last year). I already know what the racing is like over there, I can go back and have a really good crack,” he said.
His goal has the backing of Bianchi-DCM-Arbitrage boss Glenn Harris, who said he was rapt with the efforts of Lane last year.
“We ended up with seven international victories while we were over there for five months,” he said.
“That was spread between three different riders. In total we had 11 podium finishes and seven wins. It was a successful year.
“Matt, he grew in those five months. He’s come back now and is a completely different rider. He’s progressed and developed.”