I don’t feel like it’s my 17th year as a pro. It’s gone so fast. The kids riding now were in nappies when I did my first Olympics. You sometimes take the knowledge you accumulate for granted.
I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved. When I started off, all I wanted to do was win gold for Australia in the Olympics. I didn’t think much about being a professional – there weren’t really any [Australian] pro cyclists. Once you start as a professional, everything else follows. Suddenly you’re on the Tour and then I got the yellow jersey and then Paris-Roubaix.
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It’s hard to compare Olympic gold and Paris-Roubaix. They’re just so different. Paris-Roubaix as a pro almost outweighs an Olympic gold, but in the Olympics you’re representing your country. It’s a whole different thing.
It’s amazing how the sport has managed to develop in Australia. When I started, you’d go to a coffee shop and you’d be the only one dressed in Lycra. Now you look strange if you’re not.
Things have become so much more global – there are so many more English-speaking riders. Before, there were just a handful. That’s why I went to GAN – because Chris Boardman wanted an English-speaking roommate.
Over the years, I’ve seen a gradual modernisation of cycling. It’s become really scientific. I’m not really a plugged-into-the-SRM kind of guy, but I’ve seen how it can help riders. I’ve seen such a change in attitudes, from people just slogging it out for six hours a day to having really specific routines.
There’s not a real Aussie-pom rivalry out on the road when you’re racing. But we’ve got such a long history, especially when you come from a track background, that I’d say that there is a real rivalry, in a way, but it’s entirely in a good way. If that makes any kind of sense at all.
Next year’s team pursuit is going to be bloody fast. I’m glad my track days are finished. It’s going to be a nail-biter. That’s the real Aussie-pom battle. It’s the blue riband event for Australia – it’s the cycling version of the Ashes. With the British on home soil, they’re going to be tough to beat. The Australians have done it before, but the Brits have an enormous amount of experience. If Wiggo’s leading the train, then they’ll be hard to beat.
All my eight-year-old son wants to do is to ride his bike. Just before the Vuelta, I was having coffee, waiting for Frank Schleck to turn up to go training, and suddenly I saw my son shoot past my front door sitting on my bike’s top tube. He went flying down the road. It was hilarious. He couldn’t get near to touching the ground.