It’s hard to replay the colorful discussion as the Southern Hemisphere native spoke in what us Northern Hemisphere types consider classic Australian twang. We will however, loosely trace Allan’s career from his first venture to Europe in 1997 to race for Australia in the junior World Road Race Championship. Since then he has evolved into one of the top Pro Tour riders…..
Today Allan lives with his wife and his daughter (who turns 4 on November 3rd) in the Basque town of Oiartzun. When we spoke Allan was in the process of wrapping up business in Europe for another season to winter in Australia (although down under it will be summer of course). While off-season training will be high on the agenda, it will be the arrival of his son scheduled for December 18th that will be the high point of the family visit to their homeland.
Allan began 2005 with a second overall at the Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under, and this brilliant win at Spain’s Tour of Murcia.
G.J. Do you think of Spain or Australia as home?
Allan: Obviously they have very different cultures. In a way we still think of Australia as home. We speak Spanish with a little bit of Basque thrown in but communication can get frustrating at times. Less so for my daughter who attends a local school and seems to have no problem switching back and forth between the languages. However we have lived here for about two and half years so Europe and especially Oiartzun feels like home.
G.J. How did the move from Australia to Europe happen?
Allan: We came over about one month before the World’s in 1997 as members of the Australian National Junior Team. Shane Bennen and Brian Stevens of the Australian Institute for Sports had a development program at the time for U23 riders and they helped the team get into some local races in Italy. The following year I raced as a junior for the Mapei B team for a couple of months before the team closed. The following season I was invited to join the ONCE squad and I have been with them and now Liberty Seguros ever since.
G.J. Why have you stayed with same team since turning pro?
Allan: A combination of Manolo Saiz (DS) and Neil Stephens. When I first came here and right from day one, Manolo put his trust and respect in me. Stevo (Neil) has been a tremendous mentor drawing on his own extensive time in the peloton. For the last three years I have really enjoyed working with the team. The structure is good, it is well organized and there is great team morale. In a nutshell – I am happy here.
A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS?
G.J. How would you categorize yourself as a rider, sprinter, climber, rouleur?
Allan: At the moment a sprinter specializing in long and lumpy (hilly) races. However I do not see sprinting as my specialty. I lean towards hard one-day races.
G.J. So races like the Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Allan: Yes mate, but always lumpy. I have not yet ridden L-B-L but as I get older I can see that race and the Amstel Gold being good races for me. It’s always handy if you can get over the climbs and then still have a good sprint at the end. You know, it is very different sprinting after a 150km race than after a 250km race. Many riders can do the shorter race but far fewer can handle the longer distance and still sprint at the end.
G.J. If I compare you to Erik Zabel, you both ride for teams that normally provide little support in the big sprint environments. However, like Zabel we often see your face well up front while riders like Petacchi have the luxury of a lead-out train. How do you get up there, are you playing off of the other teams?
Allan: Yes mate, more or less. It is a bit harder when you are not being protected from the wind. Even so there are plenty of riders around with few or no teammates helping them. Robbie McEwen is a great example of that, he works off the other riders and makes his own tactical moves. It is not an excuse not having a lead-out train. You have to pick the right wheels, make the right moves at the end and have some luck of course.
G.J. A great example of that was your terrific ride in the Paris-Tours classic on October 9th (3rd to Zabel and Bennati). Tell us about that race.
Allan: I had trained well for the World’s where I managed to get 5th in the road race so I still had good form. We had pulled most of the break back over the last climbs but Stijn Devolder and Philipe Gilbert were still just ahead of us. As we now know they stopped working on the run in along the Avenue de Grammont. Over the final climbs the legs felt good so I made sure with just 5kms to go that I placed myself well near the front of the bunch. As we caught Devolder and Gilbert within sight of the finish there was a swish in the bunch which caused me to lose a little momentum. However I got on Daniele Bennati’s wheel as a teammate was leading him out. So I was on a good wheel as we negotiated our way past the break. I went right off Bennati for the final lunge and at the same time Zabel went to his left. Zabel took it and Bennati just held me off for second.
Interestingly the Tour de France also finished a stage on the Avenue de Grammont in Tours this year. I managed to get fifth on that day so obviously this finish suits me.
G.J. : When you are riding great races like the Paris-Tours or the Tour de France are you thinking of the history and prestige behind these legends of our sport?
Allan: Not really, on the day you are wrapped up in the race itself. You are just thinking about now, race tactics, etc.
Allan and fellow Aussie Aaron Kemps at the Paris-Roubaix ’05 start.
G.J.: With the talents that you have displayed so far in your career do you see yourself as a Green (Points) Jersey contender at the Grand Tours?
Allan: I hope so but I do not look too far ahead and just take it year by year. The last couple of years I have been getting stronger on the climbs and doing OK in the sprints. My hope is that these characteristics lean towards a Green Jersey contender.
G.J. : Also beyond the Grand Tours there are plenty of other great stage races. Perhaps in this respect you could emulate a rider like Sean Kelly or Andre Darrigade and excel in one-day races and stage races.
Allan: That would be nice but who is Darrigade? (G.J.: We talked about this great rider from the 1950’s and 1960’s briefly. Amongst his accomplishments are the World RR Championship and 22 TdF stage wins.)
G.J.: In recent years it has become a common site to see quite a few Australians at the very pinnacle of our sport. How do you get on with your countrymen during the season?
Allan: We get on well but on race day we all have our jobs to do. Off the bike we chat. Stuey (O’Grady) and I catch up on news from home. He is from South Australia and I am from Queensland. During the off-season I see more of Robbie McEwen.
G.J.: Are you well known in Australia and how big is cycle racing down under?
Allan: Well maybe around my town of Bannenberg they know me. The sport is growing in popularity and especially in the Adelaide area which hosts the Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under (JCTDU). The race is well promoted and the crowds are enormous. This is very good for the sport as a whole. The Melbourne area is another very strong region for the sport and overall cycling is getting bigger, mate. TV coverage of the Tour de France is increasing each year and this is also contributing to promoting cycle racing.
This year’s road to Roubaix was not easy, as Davis knows first hand.
G.J. : Is the JCTDU on your agenda again in the New Year? (2nd on GC to teammate Louis Leуn Sanchez in 2005).
Allan: That is where I will start my season although I will race the Australian road nationals just before the JCTDU. After the race we return to Europe.
G.J.: Having raced all over the world where are your favorite places to race?
Allan: [Lot of thought]. It has to be France because of the Tour. When I was growing up it was the only big race I really knew anything about probably because it was also the only one televised. However wherever we go the racing and the countries are great.
G.J. Within the Liberty team is it just yourself and Aaron that speak English? Does the predominantly Spanish speaking environment create barriers for you?
Allan: With Koen de Kort there are three of us that speak English and some of the other guys like Roberto (Heras) also speak English pretty well. However there are times when we do not understand what is being said but part of our job is to learn the language. Generally language is not so much of a barrier.
G.J.: A friend of mine backed you for the World’s in a local sweepstake. He took a lot of flack from people saying “who the heck is Allan Davis?” But after the race they sure knew who you were.
Allan: [Great roar of laughter!!] Yeah, but your friend still lost his money!
G.J.: Allan, thanks for taking the time to speak with me today, and I am confident that next year will be big one for you. Enjoy your time back home and advance congratulations on the soon-to-be new addition to your family.
Allan: Thanks mate.
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