When we last spoke to him, Clinton joked that his countryman and mechanic at The Shack, Craig Geater had passed his cell phone number to Johan Bruyneel – who had expressed an interest – but he’d heard nothing from the team. That all changed recently…
PEZ: Congratulations on the stagiaire, Clinton – how did the amateur results finish up?
I had two wins – Vlaamse Pijl Harelbeke and Roeselare – but because foreign riders don’t count for points in the Belgian ‘Top Competition’ races, I found myself doing an awful lot of team riding – there was no point in my riding for myself in those, but I did get my freedom on occasion and that’s when I got my wins; and I had a lot of podiums.
PEZ: When did The Shack approach you?
Andrew McQuaid, my manager told me back at the Monts and Chateaux race in April that The Shack were interested and I should keep the results coming. Then I got the email from The Shack’s admin. girl, Barbara that I should come and pick up my bikes and clothes at the Service Course in Brakel.
PEZ: Did you get any other offers?
I was invited to two Skil-Shimano camps and I rode a couple of races as an ‘unofficial stagiaire’ for them, I rode with my club jersey on but was riding for the Skil team – after that, they told me there was a place there if I wanted it. I also heard that Cervelo were interested.
PEZ: Do you get all the ‘goodies?’
Four bikes – road, training, time trial and training time trial, plus all the clothing.
PEZ: Do you receive a salary?
No, no – this is your opportunity to show them why they should pay you!
PEZ: What was your first pro race?
I’ve ridden against the pros before, at the Tour Down Under for the national squad but my first ride for The Shack was in the Tour of Denmark.
PEZ: How did the guys on the team react to you?
Really good, the French guy on the team, Geoffrey Lequatre has an awesome sense of humour, he has these ancient Oakleys and he rode a couple of stages wearing them. Sam Bewley and Jesse Sergent were riding too, so it was cool that us three New Zealanders were all together. Jason McCartney and Gert Steegmans are good guys, we alll got along fine – they were asking all about what New Zealand is like.
Avery in a break in Denmark with fellow Kiwi, Hayden Roulston, of HTC-Columbia.
PEZ: Tell us about the Tour of Denmark.
It was up and down for me, I think I surprised them with fifth place on the last stage; I was trying to lead Steegmans out but he couldn’t get to me so I decided to do what I could for myself. I was 12th on the stage four too – 11th actually, the guy who was 3rd got DQ-ed. On that last stage I suffered all day, I wasn’t feeling flash at all and when I punctured I thought, ‘that’s it!’ But Jens Voigt punctured just after me and I got back with him. It was so fast through the feed – 60 kph – that no one took a mussette; so I had to go back to the car and deliver them around the bunch. Once we hit the local circuit – which will be the Worlds 2011 circuit – the focus went from looking after Matthew Busche, who was third on GC, to thinking about the stage win and setting it up for Steegmans. I always seem to ride better if I’m riding for someone but when Gert couldn’t get my wheel I decided just to go for it and see what happened.
PEZ: Do you get much advice or feedback from management?
The race wasn’t televised so Dirk Demol didn’t have the TV in the car, he had to rely on what the riders said – but the more experienced riders were explaining to me that if I did this, or that, in a different way then I’d save more energy.
PEZ: Is there a big difference from the amateur bunches?
Definitely! The skill level is so much higher, they can all handle their bikes. In an amateur bunch it’s a lot more nervous and tends to end up in mayhem. It’s also much more controlled, in an amateur race there will be attacks from the first to the last K of a 180 K race. The pros will let a break go to six or seven minutes then decide to bring it back. The finales don’t seem any faster to me; I’m finding it much easier to hold position in the bunch than I did in amateur races. There’s much more respect in the pro bunch and everyone is stronger, if you lean on someone with your shoulder, they won’t move, but in an amateur race they’ll move and cause problems for the next guy. The pros also tend to leave the sprints to the sprinters; whist in an amateur race, everyone thinks they can sprint.
Avery had plenty to show for his efforts last year.
PEZ: Are you told what’s expected of you as a stagiaire?
I haven’t been specifically told what I have to do to get a contract but you do what you’re asked – even though I was really suffering on that last stage, I still did my job delivering mussettes and than I tried to do a job for Steegmans, but when that didn’t work out I still tried to get a result for the team. Apparently, Dirk Demol is quoted on The Shack website as saying he’s happy with my work, yesterday.
PEZ: What’s next?
I had been told I was riding the Poitou Charentes but apparently the team needs to get points so the team will be guys who already have UCI points, then we have some one day races in Belgium but I’m not sure exactly which.
PEZ: Worlds and Commonwelath Games?
Not the Worlds but the Commonwealth Games selectors have been talking to me – I’m not holding my breath, though.
PEZ: And what’s the big goal for the rest of the year?
A contract! I’ve borrowed a little too much money from a few too many people to be here – if I can’t get a contract then I’ll have to get another job!
Somehow we get the feeling that Clinton won’t need another job, with thanks to him for taking the time to talk to PEZ after a tough baptism of fire.