An interview with Brad Davidson
By Karen Forman in Adelaide
It's every young rider's ambition; the stuff of which dreams are made. One minute you are racing with your cycling club at home in Australia, then next (or so it seems), you have a lucrative contract with one of the best professional cycling teams in the world.
Suddenly, at the tender age of 20, you find yourself racing against the best road riders around, living overseas, learning a foreign language,and month by month, result by result, creeping toward your ultimate goal: To ride in the greatest race of them all - the Tour de France.
So it has been for Saeco-Longoni Sport rider Brad Davidson, a likeable, boy-next-door from Melbourne, who this week is enjoying that heart pulsing novelty of riding before an Aussie home crowd, for a European team, in the 2002 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under.
He might be in his second season with the team, but the 21 year old is still obviously, to use an Australian expression, "stoked".
Indeed, he is doing himself - and his team - proud in his first Tour Down Under. After the fifth stage today, he was 74th out of 92 riders in the general classification.
Next week, he will return with girlfriend Rahna Demahrte (who is an ex-world champion track cyclist and he says with the greatest admiration, understands cycling) to Europe, where they will set up house in Nice with some other Australian riders.
So, how did he do it?
"I got hit by a car, getting off the school bus, and broke my leg," he said. "The doctor suggested I should start cycling to build up the muscles in my leg, because they atrophied badly with the break."
"Then, a friend suggested I race...and I got addicted. I joined Carnegie-Caulfield Cycling Club and it went from there."
Davidson showed a natural ability on the bike and it wasn't long before he came to the notice of Victorian Institute of Sport head coach Dave Sanders.
"I did the Junior Worlds in 1998 and did well and I was looking for a European team to ride with," he says. "I emailed a website I found which had information about Italian amateur teams and told them I was looking for a team and asked for help. I got a couple of replies and an offer to ride with Brunero-Vezza. So, I went to Italy."
Don't be under too many illusions, however, if you are 19 years old and thinking you might do the same.
"It was really hard, for a lot of reasons," he said. "I didn't speak Italian, although by the end of a year I did speak it well. And the racing is a lot harder than here."
Still, he must have been doing something right, because in March last year, he signed with Saeco.
"It was awesome, a dream come true. I also had offers from Domo and Polti but I chose Saeco because I like the red shorts. Nah, just joking. Because they came up with a really good offer, a good program."
So what does he mean by "good offer?"
He says that in Italy, the base wage for a pro cyclist starts at AU$45,000. Plus, there are bonuses if you go well and obvious advantages, like free bikes (he has six at home).
"We have to buy our own food, although when we are on tour we are looked after."
Last year, he and Rahna lived in Tuscany. He says he couldn't do it without her. This year, however, they have decided to move to France and will be close to Aussie riders Brad McGee and Baden Cooke (both from Francaise Des Jeux). Not a bad lifestyle, eh?
Riding as a domestique, he did well enough in his first year to be signed for a second one, which has begun with the Tour Down Under. Even after a year, he says he is still amazed at the whole pro cycling setup.
"It is so full on, I just cannot comprehend the money that goes into it. So much is involved behind the scenes."
This year he hopes for a top 10 finish in a race and maybe will get to do the Tour of Spain. So far, he is coping with the pressures.
"When teams are paying you, you always are under pressure to perform, so you have got to go well," he said, "but I think there is more pressure from yourself, actually."
His ultimate goal is the Tour de France, but he realises it may take some time. "I am very young and not mentally prepared," he said. "But I have plenty of time."
Meanwhile, he says he is loving "travelling the world for free, meeting lots of great people and riding the bike."
What more could you wish for, really?