Cyclingnews talks with Trent Wilson

By Jeff Jones

What's it like to ride your first professional race in Belgium on a wet, cold day pitted against classics specialists? 23 year old Italian based Australian, Trent Wilson (no relation to Matt), pulled on the black and red Team Fakta jersey today in the GP Jef Scherens in Leuven for his first race as a stagiaire with the team. It was a pretty bad day, even by Belgian standards, with non-stop rain from the beginning and a storm near the end. Trent managed 150 km before calling it a day and spent considerable time cleaning the grit off his legs in the showers afterwards.

Cyclingnews caught up with him over a tasty meal at the Sunderlands' establishment that evening...

CN: Is it a big shock to come over here from Italy?

TW: It was a big shock. The difference in racing. Firstly obviously going from amateur to professional. The way of racing and the types of roads, the hills, the surface, the weather

CN: How do they race in Italy? Like amateurs all over the world, attacking from the gun?

TW: I've never raced that much out of Italy [Apart from Australia of course]. I think all amateurs are out of the blocks, as it did today. Yeah, it was on from the gun today.

CN: What are the courses like in Italy?

TW: More laps. One or two point-to-point races all year. They love their kermis races because of the crowds and they'll put you over 10 laps with a 3 km climb every lap. There's a certain attrition rate every lap.

CN: Did you do any pro racing over there?

TW: No.

CN: Describe your first experiences today.

TW: First corner: Wet, pave. Firstly the weather. That really worried me from the start. I haven't raced much in the rain. The temperature. I went from 35 to about 17 today. Racing with the big boys. It was always going to be a worrying thing. That wasn't so much what was worrying me - it was more the weather and the way the race was going to go. I didn't know what was going to happen at all.
Click for larger image
Breakfast of nerves
Photo: © Jan Lindberg

CN: Did you prepare in a similar manner?

TW: It changed a fair bit, mainly because the Italians are all stress related. e.g. You have to eat three hours before a race, not a minute after, not a minute before. Pasta...all the time. The food was a bit different.

But the team was just so professional. I came downstairs, the bike was there, the bidons were in there. I rolled to the start, signed on. Go for a coffee. Oil was rubbed on the legs. 'Do you want this, do you want that?' You don't have to ask.

For preparation you're just so relaxed, you just have to think about what coffee you're going to order.

CN: Did you have a coffee?

TW: I did have one, yes.

CN: How many?

TW: Enough to be under (laughs)

CN: The first part of the race was 108 km, a big loop. What was that like?

TW: Not too bad. It was on from the gun, I tried to get in a few breaks. Kim told us not to make any, but to follow them. I went with a few breaks and I did notice the difference there between amateur and professional. You're swapping turns, but if it's a 10 metre gap, it's a long gap. It's not easy to bring it back.

I went with a couple of breaks and the one that went, I missed. Coming out of a corner, guys just lost the wheel and sat up

Scott chimes in: It was a slippery, dicey corner, a bit of an S bend. There were five amateur teams there. Somebody let the wheel go and the other guys had teammates in front and didn't want to bridge up. There were two Lottos, two Flanders, two Fakta, one Collstrop, one Domo, one of this and one of that (12 in total).

CN: You had two guys there. Was there still a desire to get across?

TW: No, at that stage I just sat there and read the situation, realised that Domo had to chase. They had two teams but only one rider up there. They had to do the majority of the work. We had two riders up there so we were in the sitting down chair and we took it fairly easy until one Domo rider went up the road and Scott got across. That was perfect after that - we had three riders up there.

It wasn't until we hit the circuit (6x15 km) that it really lit up. The first lap wasn't so bad; the second one it was on; and the third one it split to bits. People were dropping the wheels left, right and centre. I was one of the last to go out the back and by then there was only 25 max. left in the group. I went back to a group and called it a day with 45 km to go.

CN: How did you feel?

TW: Scott asked me the same question and I didn't know how to answer it because I didn't know what to expect in the first place. I'm happy to have gotten through it with my wings intact and skin on. I learnt a lot. I've probably learnt the most I've learnt in cycling today.

Scott: The biggest thing is the contrast of racing in Italy to racing in Belgium. A lot of people think the likes of Ballerini, Bortolami and Tafi just come up here and are instantly good. But these guys had three or four seasons of learning to race up here in Belgium. Getting to know the races, the cold weather, the scenario, the crucial parts of the classics.

So for a young stagiaire to come up here who's never raced before - you have to remember that a lot of these guys have raced the amateur versions of Tour of Flanders or Het Volk or Paris Roubaix. When you come here and race and you haven't raced here as an amateur - that's a very big haul. It took me years before I got to do that well. I hated it with a passion. Now I love it with a passion. It's just getting to know the race. Which part of the road has asphalt on it, which part of the cobbles to ride...

TW: That's what I noticed today - guys taking short cuts on corners. You see some guy going on one side of a bus shelter and he appears on the other side of the peloton.

Scott: Kim said to me last night 'I just want Trent to ride today'. Hessen Rundfahrt we'll look at it a bit more, the weather and the terrain probably suit him more so we'll go into that race with a bit more of an objective.

CN: Did you do many stage races in Italy?

TW: I did Giro Veneto and the Baby Giro. The Giro Veneto was 8 days and I was 7th with two days to go, and then I fell back to 12th. That was my time trialling ability. The Baby Giro was two weeks and that was just survival. It was the end of June and I'd being going since January.

CN: How often did you race as an amateur?

TW: March, April is not too bad, but from May onwards it's three days a week. I've got 70 days [of racing] this week [about week 35].

CN: What are your objectives this month?

TW: Turn pro. Hopefully with Fakta. Just meeting the boys last night, it took me five minutes and we were hitting it off and I was thinking 'I can see myself riding with this team.' It's a great bunch of blokes, great support with the director, mechanics and so on. It's like a family.

CN: What will do after this. Go back to Australia and ride the Sun Tour, and then...?

TW: I want to ride Noosa [criterium], then have a couple of weeks off. I want to peak for Noosa (laughs).

We bring the interview to a close in order to get Trent back to his lodgings nearby by 10:00pm curfew time. He'll be riding in the Hessen Rundfahrt that starts on Wednesday, September 5, then perhaps a few kermesses, Franco-Belge, and Paris-Bourges. Keep an eye out for 'Willo' in the results.

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