Tom Southam

Next month Tom Southam will return from an 18-month spell in Australia to team up with Rob Hayles to race Premier Calendar events for Halfords Bikehut.

The 26-year-old from Cornwall left Barloworld before the end of the 2006 season and left Europe. When he arrived in Australia he had no plans to continue racing but spent 2007 in the colours of Team Drapac, basing himself in Bendigo, north of Melbourne.

?I was pretty much finished with cycling, to be honest. I was pretty much done. But in the past year I?ve started enjoying it again. Racing for Drapac has rekindled my passion for it. It was quite a change going from the Italian Classics to a coffee shop style of racing but it was what I needed.

?I had become pretty disillusioned. I had done nothing but cycling for 12 or 13 years and I found myself in a world where a few things unsettled me slightly. I felt it was not the environment for me to be in.?

Although happy and settled in Australia, Southam jumped at the chance to come back to England to race.

?I was speaking to Kristian House and he was saying how healthy things are with the UK scene at the moment. After racing with less stress I fancied doing it at a higher level again. I spoke to John Herety to see what opportunities there were. He said Dave Brailsford had something in the pipeline. Later that day I got a call from Dave and it pretty much happened in about a week.?

That may seem a surprise considering Southam was not flavour of the month after the World Championships in Madrid in 2005. He and Charly Wegelius rode on the front of the peloton for several laps early in the race, ignoring Great Britain team orders and riding instead for the Italians.

Brailsford was livid and said the pair would never ride for Great Britain again.

?I was even surprised that Dave contacted me,? said Southam. ?At the time I explained my reasons for what I did. He didn?t agree with them and there were consequences. But since then he has been pretty supportive and it?s all water under the bridge.?

But does Southam regret his decision, and would he do the same thing again, given the chance? ?I try not to regret things because what?s done is done. At the time I made a decision and I didn?t really know the consequences until it happened. Indirectly as a result of that, I ended up coming to Australia and my life changed direction massively. I am quite happy with where I am now.

?But now, a couple of years older and wiser, would I do the same thing? Probably not, but you learn from these things.?

Southam has adopted a slight Australian edge to his accent and has enjoyed the weather and lifestyle, so how is he looking forward to basing himself in Cheadle?

?It?s going to be a shock coming back at this time of year. It?s 35 degrees here at the moment.

?But I am really looking forward to it. The Premier Calendar looks really competitive. There are more teams and more riders who can do well. And racing with Rob is going to be great. I?ve always had a good time with him on and off the bike.?

At 26, Southam still has many years ahead of him ? does he see this as a stepping stone back to Europe?

?I?m not thinking that far ahead. I am definitely coming back with a more relaxed attitude. When I was younger I thought ?I have to do this now, I have to do that? but as I?ve got older I?ve accepted how things are. I know what?s out there and I know what I can achieve and I am happy with that.

?First and foremost I want to enjoy it because if you are having fun you tend to go a lot better and then good things come.

?But yes, I?d like to have another go. I?d like to make a mark before I disappear again instead of leaving the sport with nothing.?


Lead story: Halfords Bike Hut team revealed

Interviews: Cooke talks about the new team

Who?s who: Full Halfords Bike Hut line-up

Nostalgia: ANC-Halfords 20 years on

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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.