Hamilton on the road to success

Joel Peterson | Bendigo Weekly | 23-Feb-2018

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Chris Hamilton returned to Europe this week. Photo: Andrew Perryman.
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Chris Hamilton says his encouraging start to 2018 showed just how much he improved in his first year in the professional cycling ranks. 

As he jetted off to his Spanish base in Girona this week following an extended stay in Australia over the summer, he is certain that there is more improvement to come.

Hamilton returned to Bendigo after his debut season with the Team Sunweb lineup on the UCI World Tour. It was a year that surpassed his expectations, included some big starts but also had a tragic twist at its
completion.

“I think last year changed me a lot. It was the first time I’ve been away from home for so long, it’s not a job or a career that many people that can tell you what it’s going to be like,” he said.

“I can come out of this year and honestly say that it was the best year of my life.”

“Even just fitting in with all these different cultures, living in Spain and riding for a predominantly German and Dutch team, it builds up a lot of experience pretty quickly.”

Hamilton says he changed immensely in 2017, and even during his three months back “home” he heads back to Europe changed again.

Like many, he was deeply shaken by the death of fellow professional cyclist Jason Lowndes. More than most though, as he was Lowndes’ housemate in the Spanish city of Girona.

“I’ve never dealt with such a thing. Obviously I’ve had deaths in the family and that sort of thing, but it’s something you never think is going to happen,” he said.

“No one really knows how to deal with it. You can take it two ways – it’s fair enough that it can bring people down, it definitely brought me down in some points, but it’s how you deal with it after that.

“You can go on and do what he would have wanted to do, which is just to enjoy life no matter what you do.

“I think I changed a lot living with him, for the better.”

There was another, more noticeable, change in the 23-year-old, one that seems to have become a permanent fixture.

“Mum wasn’t too happy with the beard, I kept saying I’d shave it off but it’s just stayed round I guess,” he said.

“It probably makes me look a bit older which isn’t a bad thing.”

Friendship on the tour is a constant for the affable Hamilton, who made his grand tour debut at the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain) alongside fellow local and former schoolmate Jack Haig.

“The Vuelta for me was for sure a highlight, getting through that. Probably one of my favourite parts of the year was stage 20 at the Vuelta,” he said.

“I don’t know what it was but I was on one of the best days I’ve ever had.”

Hamilton said he had been struggling deep in the three-week grand tour, battling just to make the daily time cut.

That was followed by waking up “feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck” and doing it all again.

But he said stage 20 was different.

“I was still in the front group of 20 or 25 guys with (teammate) Wilco Keldermann, and it was pouring with rain on a big decent and I was going right there with some of the best bike riders in the world,” he said.

“My dad was on the side of the road and got to see that, and that was one of my proudest moments – not only that I was in that group but that dad got to see that.”

Hamilton started this year with sixth at the national road titles and then performed well at the Tour Down Under in a support role for Dutch young gun Sam Oomen.

That gives him plenty of confidence to head back to Europe with.

“I definitely improved on the bike, both in fitness and the way I watch the race,” he said.

“I feel like I’m in a good place in terms of fitness and everything I learned last year, and I’m looking forward to getting going.”

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