Damien Howson and Adil Jelloul are separated by 16,700km as the crow flies.Â Apart from that, the two riders have at least three points in common: they won a UCI Continental Circuit in 2013, they are getting ready for the UCI Road World Championships in Tuscany (Italy) in September, and both turn professional in 2014.
It has been nearly six months since the Australian claimed the individual ranking in the UCI Oceania Tour. The Moroccan followed two months ago with the UCI Africa Tour title.Â But that doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™s time for a rest: the two champions are continuing their season on the roads of Europe and elsewhere.
â€śI have been based in VarĂ¨se, Italy, since the end of March,â€ť explains Howson. "It is where Jayco-AIS (the Orica-GreenEdge reserve team which brings together most of the best young Australians â€“ ed) has its base. â€śThe lifestyle is very different from when Iâ€™m home in Australia. In Italy, we train and race all together, and it's also when my season is at its most intense. When Iâ€™m in Australia, I'm home with family and spend time with friends and have a lot more freedom. This period of time spent in Australia is also often my off-season or pre-season training without much racing."
With batteries recharged, Howson began competing again at the beginning of 2013, winning the overall individual ranking of the UCI Oceania Tour thanks to three performances: victories in the Under-23 time trial at the Australian Championships and Oceania Championships, and his second place in the road race at the Oceania Championships.
Howson continues with the UCI Europe Tour and the UCI U23 Nationsâ€™ Cup. He won the Trofeo Alcide Degasperi (two seconds ahead of the peloton) and finished 3rd in the ThĂĽringen-Rundfahrt (with a win in the prologue). He also worked diligently within the National Australian Under-23 team.
Holidays at opposite ends of the calendar
Jelloul, on the other hand, has remained faithful to his training routes in the Middle Atlas, at Azrou. He accorded himself some rest at the end of June after his third place in the Moroccan Championships and his overall victory in the 2012-2013 UCI Africa Tour.
He relates: â€śFor three weeks, I was able to spend time with my family and get some rest during Ramadan. I started training again at the end of July with some jogging, swimming and mountain bike. Then I started cycling on the flat with rides of around 100km."
Howson and Jelloulâ€™s rest periods are at opposite periods of the year. While the Australian rested in Adelaide and prepared his European season, the Moroccan clocked up points in the UCI Africa Tour: he finished 12th in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo-Tour du Gabon up against some invited UCI WorldTour teams, 8th in the Tour dâ€™AlgĂ©rie and 2nd in a stage of the Tour de Tipaza...
In August their paths start merging. The two riders are training for the 2013 UCI Road World Championships and, already, for the 2014 season during which they will race as professionals.
UCI Road World Championships: Howson wants to win, Jelloul to help younger riders
Howson, aged 21, will join the ranks of Orica-GreenEdge. Jelloul, aged 31, has announced that he will be part of a project for a UCI Continental team that will be launched in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.
â€śThis is a dream come true,â€ť comments the Australian.Â "Many riders dream of racing in Europe, turning professional, riding in the UCI WorldTour and eventually getting to do races, the biggest races in the world, like the Tour de France. After eight years of riding a bike, Iâ€™m on my way."
The young Aussie has already worn his future teamâ€™s jersey, as a trainee at the Larry H. Miller-Tour of Utah, where he discovered the UCI America Tour.Â It was also valuable experience in the mountainsÂ for this rouleur who desperately wants to progress in the passes and who will tackle the Tour de lâ€™Avenir at the end of August.
For Jelloul, the chance to turn professional came late in the day but is none the less welcome. â€śIt is great news for me,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™ve been wanted to turn pro for the last five years. Now I will be able to progress in a new structure and in new events, beside some very good riders. I will still ride for the Moroccan team but only for the African Continental Championships.â€ť
Before turning pro, the two riders will meet up next month at the Road Worlds. Jelloul, who will compete in Italy as part of his preparation, wants to live up to his role as Road Captain. He will work for the young Moroccans such as Reda Aadel, Anasse Ait El Abdia and Soufiane Haddi.
As for Howson, he will have gold on his mind. Last year, he finished third in the U23 time trial behind Russiaâ€™s Anton Vorobyev and his fellow countryman Rohan Dennis. â€śThe World Championships are my main goal this year,â€ť he emphasises. A victory on the roads of Tuscany would be the perfect way to end the 2013 season which led him from the Continental Circuits (Oceania, Europe and America) to the UCI WorldTour.