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Tales from the peloton, June 18, 2007

Finding yellow in North America

Ben Day (Navigators Insurance)
Photo ©: Jerome Lessard
(Click for larger image)

Riders from Down Under have proven hard to beat up top in Canada's Tour de Beauce, with Navigators Insurance riders Glen Chadwick and Ben Day taking three of the seven stage wins. Cyclingnews' North American Editor Mark Zalewski caught up with Day after he claimed overall victory in Saint-Georges, Québec.

There is a long list of Australian cyclists who have found success racing in 'the States,' and now one more name can be added to that long list: Navigators Insurance's Ben Day, after winning the 22nd edition of the Tour de Beauce. In fact, the Queenslander and former national time trial champion is the fourth Aussie to win the Canadian stage race, putting him in line with Henk Vogels, Michael Rogers and Nathan O'Neill.

And like many Aussie cyclists, Day has European peloton experience under his belt - only he did that first before coming to America. "This is my first year in America so everything is new to me here," he said. But already his move across the pond has paid dividends. "This is my first tour win, so I felt the pressure a bit having this jersey, but having such a great team ride for me I had to live up to the sacrifices they made for me."

Prior to racing for Navigators Day raced in Europe, first starting with the Portuguese Carvalhelhos-Boavista in 2003, then heading up north to Belgium with Mr.Bookmaker.com-Sports Tech, before returning for the last two years with the Boavista team. For Day the switch to racing in America from Europe was not always considered a possibility.

"This is my first tour win, so I felt the pressure a bit having this jersey."

-Ben Day has taken his first major win in North America

"I have never really seriously considered racing for an American based team before as there has always been a conception that once you jump to those shores, the doors back to Europe will forever close," he wrote on his blog. "And with my ultimate objectives of racing the Tour de France and other big races in Europe, I was erred away from heading in that direction.

"But the US now has two massive international tours which attracts a few of the ProTour teams and the level of all the other races is apparently increasing every year," he added. "With this in mind, and the fact that Navigators race four months in Europe every year as well, I am excited about the prospects that I have in front of me."

Day's decision to race in America was based upon a feeling that his European path was not headed in the right direction. "But I feel that I haven't had a good career path in cycling, to the point of saying that is has even been unfair which prompted me to look for another direction," he said.

One example of this was a near-win he had at the Tour de Suisse. "My 'if only' story was Tour of Switzerland in 2004 - the last stage is a time trial of 25km," he said. "In the last five kilometres there was a roundabout and I crashed but finished only 49 seconds behind Ullrich, with the crash... if only!"

Ben Day (Navigators Insurance)
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

Day's performance at the Tour de Beauce time trial certainly went a lot better. With his Navigators teammate, Glen Chadwick, having already claimed victory on stages two and three, Day hit the TT in impressive form, claiming the yellow jersey with another stage win for the squad, some 27 seconds ahead of second placed Danney Pate (Team Slipstream).

Add the fact that Day was only one of many candidates on his team this week to be going for the GC, but was fortunate enough to be in the Stage 1 breakaway, perhaps shows that his luck may be changing. Whatever its cause, with the yellow jersey on his shoulders after Stage 4 and a strong Navigators Insurance squad backing him all the way to final stage's finish in St-Georges, Day wrapped up his largest American success to date.

Day gets a little time off after this week of hard racing, but knows exactly what he is working towards. "After this race I am going to have a holiday and then put everything into the Worlds and with the Olympics next year and two spots for Australia, so I think I've got a good chance at one of those spots."

But in typical Aussie fashion, the priority list as a place reserved at the top. "First thing this afternoon is to go have some beer - that is the next thing in my career!"

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