Just over two years ago, Zak Dempster won the Tour Series round in Woking.
Yesterday, he sprinted alongside the sport’s fastest on The Mall to complete his third Tour de France stage, the latest step in the Australian’s rise through the ranks.
“I think I’ve done that pretty well in recent years,” the 26-year-old Australian modestly explained, “starting in 2011 with Rapha Condor-Sharp, then onto Endura, then getting through the Vuelta with this team last year and now riding the Tour de France.
“I’ve never been interested in stagnating just because I’ve done well, like I could have done when I raced in Britain. I’ve always had a pathway in my head about what I’ve wanted to achieve.”
Dempster would have been in the WorldTour had HTC-Highroad not have folded at the end of 2011; he rode as a stagiare for the American squad at the end of that season.
He placed 11th in yesterday’s stage, having finished sixth on the same stretch of road in last August’s inaugural Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic. And while his main task for the race is to help NetApp-Endura’s top-20 contender Leopold König, he will be given free reign to contest bunch sprints throughout the race.
“You don’t want to get to the World Cup final and play badly,” he added. “I’m here to do a job, whether that’s in bunch kicks or helping Leo. I’m not going to be satisfied rolling around anonymously.”
For the first week of the race he has the support of his family, who have travelled from Melbourne to watch him.
Dempster said: “They were at the team presentation – I pointed them out and 10,000 people or so cheered for them. They’ve been having BBQs and generally enjoying themselves.
“My dad’s only been to Europe to see me race a couple of times, and he stayed up all night last year to watch the Vuelta, so this is definitely a treat for him. It’s a special feeling, having them so close to what I do for a living.
“I’ve got some friends from Belgium here, too, who I lived with in 2009. That was probably the worst year of my career, but they’ve supported me ever since.”
I wonder if back then, Dempster and his friends would have envisaged that he’d be where he is now?