Docker endured a major scare at the start of his first season with ORICA-GreenEDGE. He crashed heavily during the team training camp in January 2012, breaking his hand and suffering a severe concussion. His injuries sidelined him for more than four months.
“I was really happy with the support the team gave me when I was coming back from my injuries,” said Docker. “There was never any pressure to return quickly. I think I was able to repay them this year with some good riding in the support roles that I had.”
“Looking ahead, I feel good about the way the team has said they want to continue to develop me,” Docker continued. “We’ve begun to talk more specifically about my programme, and I’m excited by everything they have in store for me.”
“It was a rough start last year for Mitch with a major injury,” echoed Sport Director Matt White. “He came back well this year. We’ve seen clear improvement in his ability to lead-out his teammates. It’s the sort of development that comes with getting in there and doing the job repeatedly. “
Asked to name highlights during the last two years, Docker points to the success his teammates achieved with his support. Having made his Grand Tour debut with ORICA-GreenEDGE at the Vuelta a España in 2012, Docker was thrilled to return with a much higher level of fitness the following season.
“I’ve done a lot of work over the last two years to build up to the sort of role I had as the last lead-out man at the Vuelta,” said Docker. “Since last year, I’ve been working really hard to do that job better and better and better. It felt like a nice little closing of the circle to deliver Michael [Matthews] to the win on the final stage of the Vuelta. Last year, I just scraped through the three weeks in Spain. This year, I was able to make some big contributions.”
“We went into the final stage with only five guys,” Docker recollected. “We laid it on the line for Michael. It was a really, really cool feeling. We all got on the bus, and I could tell that everyone felt the same way about how we came together as a team. It was a special moment.”
While Docker expressed satisfaction with his improvements in the sprint train, he admits that he had hoped for more from his performances in the spring. Docker expects the team to benefit from the leadership and experience of Mat Hayman in their pursuit of improved results in the cobbled classics.
“I missed out on the Classics two years ago,” said Docker. “The team gave me a new role during the Classics season this year. I learned a lot, but I didn’t perform that well. I was excited by my new responsibilities, but I don’t think I was mentally prepared for them. Now that I know what my role will be next year, I’m ready for it.”
“I’m looking forward to working for Mat Hayman,” Docker added. “He is going to make a massive difference in the team. I think the Classics and lead-out work go hand-in-hand. In the Classics, I do the same sort of job in a different part of the race as I do in the lead-out. I’ll continue to focus on the sprint train, and the Classics will take over as my main priority in the spring.”
Docker anticipates a few changes in his programme next season. He sees these as a challenge he is excited to meet as part of his ongoing development.
“It sounds like the team may have me do two Grand Tours next year,” said Docker. “That will be a bit different. I only did the Vuelta the last two years. Next year, we’re looking at adding a second one.”
“I’m genuinely excited about next year,” continued Docker. “The team has spent the last two years building and fleshing out details. We’re ready to get down to business now. I think everyone is really excited about where we can go and what we can achieve next year.”
“Docker has turned into a good lead-out rider,” said White. “We’ll give him more opportunities to show himself next year. Right now we plan to have him ride the Giro and Vuelta and also focus on the Classics. We’ll give him an opportunity to shine in the spring and in the lead-out train.”