Allan Davis is the only rider to have ridden all 10 editions of the Tour Down Under.
The sprinter from Queensland was a fresh-faced 18-year-old when he lined up for the 1999 Tour Down Under in the colours of the Australian Institute of Sport. His older brother, Scott, was in the same team.
Davis was part of a generation of Australian riders including Michael Rogers, Baden Cooke, Graeme Brown, Brett Lancaster, that used the Australian Institute of Sport base in Tuscany as their stepping stone to a career in Europe.
The goal was to attract a professional team and the AIS had strong ties to Mapei, but it was Manolo Saiz of ONCE, who came calling in 2002.
Davis said farewell to the AIS by riding the 2002 Tour Down Under for them. Then it was off to Europe.
Now 27, he?s spent the winter back home, as usual, but there?s one big difference. He has nothing to return to Europe for ? yet.
So, he?s racing for the University of South Australia team in a bid to put himself in the shop window. He rode the Tour Down Under for them last year because his employer Discovery Channel did not enter the race.
Davis? troubles began with the Operacion Puerto investigation in 2006.
His name was on documents that formed part of the Spanish Guardia Civil?s investigation. Quickly the Australian Anti-Doping Sports Agency stepped in and decided Davis had no case to answer. He was in the clear. His side of the story is that his name may have been involved in the investigation because it centred on Liberty Seguros and Saiz, his team and manager at the time.
Discovery Channel hired him last year and his most notable results were an impressive second place in Milan-San Remo and a stage win in the Tour of Catalonia.
But then he was sidelined, sent to the Tour of Qinghai Lake in China instead of taken to the Tour de France. Against second-rate opposition he won five stages and the points classification.
Come the end of the season, Discovery Channel pulled out and Davis was left as one of the few without a contract. Johan Bruyneel did not take him to Astana with the other Disco refugees.
Now he?s out of contract and facing a season on the sidelines.
A stage win in the Tour Down Under will have done his chances of attracting a new squad no harm.
It was an impressive victory as he started his sprint early to overtake the fading Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), who had tried his luck from two kilometres out.
Mark Renshaw of Crédit Agricole regained his overall lead thanks to second place and the small time bonus that went with it. Graeme Brown lost his ochre jersey as he got swamped in the sprint and could finish only 19th.
Renshaw now leads Davis by two seconds, with the German André Greipel and Graeme Brown tied six seconds back.
The question for Davis, though, is whether this week will be enough to earn him another chance to race in Europe. He maintains he has never doped, despite riding for Manolo Saiz for four seasons, the Australian anti-doping authorities say there is no case to answer and if there are any innocent victims of Operacion Puerto, Davis looks to be one.
Mud sticks, they say, and Davis? name has been smeared. It?s curious Bruyneel faced such a backlash for signing Basso but none for hiring Davis. So far this season there have been no takers for Davis.
What must he give to prove his innocence? Blood?
PICTURE Davis (in Discovery Channel jersey) throws his arms up at stage seven of last year’s Vuelta a Espana, thinking he’s won. He hadn’t, Zabel got the verdict.
|DAVIS? TOP TEN|
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Allan Davis has ridden all ten editions of the Tour Down Under. These are the teams he?s represented.
2008 Unisa-Australia won one stage
2006 Liberty Seguros Won two stages
2005 Liberty Seguros
2004 Liberty Seguros
2001 United Water
2000 United Water-AIS
1. Allan Davis (Aus) Unisa-Australia 3-13-48
2. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Crédit Agricole
3. Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank
4. Davide Vigano (Ita) Quick Step
5. André Greipel (Ger) Team High Road
6. Stuart O?Grady (Aus) CSC
7. Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Silence-Lotto
8. Aurelien Clerc (Swi) Bouygues Telecom
9. Martin Elmiger (Swi) Ag2r-La Mondiale
10. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux
33. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Crédit Agricole all same time
1. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Crédit Agricole 10-14-00
2. Allan Davis (Aus) Unisa-Australia at 2sec
3. André Greipel (Ger) Team High Road at 6sec
4. Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank same time
5. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d?Epargne at 10sec
6. Mickael Buffaz (Fra) Cofidis
7. Mickael Delage (Fra) Française des Jeux both same time
8. Yoann Offredo (Fra) Française des Jeux at 11sec
9. Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank at 12sec
10. Kjell Carlstrom (Fin) Liquigas same time
64. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Crédit Agricole at 16sec