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Clinton Avery talks pro debut
Feb 4th, 12. On Sunday in Qatar, New Zealand's newest pro rider makes his debut.
RoadCycling.co.nz caught up with Clinton Avery of Champion System Pro Cycling Team.
This brand new team is the world's first Asian-based UCI Pro Continental Team, and with them 24 year old Avery has had a busy month meeting his teammates, doing media briefings and attending training camps.
"I joined the team on the 7th of January in Hong Kong where we sorted out a lot of logistical stuff and medicals for the UCI. From there we moved to Beijing for a couple of days for the team presentation," Avery shared.
After trying out the famed Beijing Duck - "Don't know what the big deal was though, it just tastes like normal duck" - the 6'4" Kiwi went to Hainan Island for a two week training camp.
While the training was good, there were a few surprises along the way.
"We had to watch out for dogs, chickens and pigs which all thought the road was the best place to find food!"
At the conclusion of the training camp the team went back to Hong Kong, and Avery and the rest of the riders on the Tour of Qatar roster headed away to race.
Champion System Pro Cycling Team has a mix of nationalities including four from this part of the world - Avery and three Aussies.
Although there are language issues, as most of the Chinese riders don't speak Engish, the team has a translator who travels with them to minimise the impact. On the road, one of the Chinese riders who does know English acts as translator.
Avery said the level of the team is reasonably high in terms of rider ability with most of the roster having had World Tour experience. They were all were bouyed by Will Clarke's brilliant solo breakaway stage victory at the Tour Down Under while riding for the Australian National team.
"Judging by the training in Hainan, I am in the sprinter's group, but will be used most of the time as the last guy in the lead out train," Avery said of his role in the team.
"For Qatar, the sprinter we have is Aaron Kemps. Maybe in Oman I can get my chance as we have no pure sprinter for there."
Although Avery acknowledges everyone wants to do well at the beginning of the season and to compare themselves against the world's best, he sees the Tour of Qatar, followed by the Tour of Oman, is primarily an opportunity to continue to build his base for his key goal events - classic races in Belgium.
Belgium's cobbled roads are where the Kiwi has shone in the past and where many expect him to stake out his pro-racing future.
"Champion System are riding some of the minor classics, the biggest being Het Nieuwsblad (UCI 1.HC), and I do most of the Belgium races in the beginning of the season but no World Tour Classics," Avery explained.
"I think by April I will have at least 20 days of racing already."
The Rotorua rider is hoping to rent a house in Belgium for the season.
"Since the Belgium races are what I want to do well in, I figure it's best to be there," he said.
Champion System Tour of Qatar Roster UCI2.HC - Feb 5-10th
N.B. Two other Kiwis are on the start list for the Tour of Qatar - Jack Bauer (Garmin Barracuda) and Greg Henderson (Lotto Belisol).
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