VeloVeritas & Co. always tries to keep an eye on what’s happening in the Heartland of Flanders. If it’s not Vik, then it’s Dave who tips us of about who’s burning up the kermises – the name of 23 year-old Australian Luke Davison caught his eye with back to back kermis wins.
You could race for years there and never win one – so two on the bounce is special.
We tracked the man from Sydney down in Gent and had a word – but first of all, let’s have a meander through his palmares…
It was 2007 when he first came to Aussie national prominence as part of the winning squad in the National Team Sprint Championships.
Within a year he was a triple Junior World Junior Track Champion – displaying outstanding versatility in winning the team pursuit, madison and omnium.
The following 2009 season was quieter with just a silver in the Australian National Madison Championship.
There was a fallow year in 2010 and placings in Australian races in 2011 but no stand-out results.
Last year everything changed; four stages in the Tour of Gippsland; five stages and the overall GC in the Tour of the Murray River; two stages in the Tour of the Great South Coast and the overall win in the Australian National Race Calendar competition.
This season has seen Davison’s versatility shine through again – a stage win in the Herald Sun Tour, gold in the Australian Team Pursuit Championship, silver in the Australian Kilometre Championship and bronze in the World Scratch Championship.
And now he’s turned his attention to the cobbles and corners of Flanders . . .
How did you get into cycling, Luke?
“I always loved racing my bike, even at the playground I’d want to overtake everyone.
“I think I was around 11 years old and one day I was down at Heffron criterium circuit with my Dad and I saw the cyclists racing – it just progressed from there.
“I gave it a go and loved it.”
You were originally a team sprinter…
“Yeah, I guess so.
“I never really had a passion for track sprinting though; it was sort of just something I fell into.”
Three junior world track titles in 2008 – tell us about that.
“Yes, I made a huge amount of sacrifices in 2008 to be at my best for the World Juniors and was lucky enough to walk away with gold in the Team Pursuit, Madison and Omnium, which was more than I’d dreamed of.
“My coach at the time Daniel Healey, who now works with the Kiwi guys at BikeNZ was unbelievable in structuring my training in a way that allowed me to not miss too much school, but looking back yeah it was pretty full on.”
Looking at your palmares, ’09/10/11 seem quiet?
“After Junior Worlds I was probably pretty drained mentally but didn’t really get any time off, it was straight into a European road block with the AIS.
“I probably wasn’t training as hard as I could have been and got a bit of a wakeup call when we arrived in Europe.
“After that I took a year off the bike, which to be honest was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
“I appreciate riding much more these days, so no regrets.”
But 2012 you really found your legs in Gippsland, the Murray River and the NRS – why then?
“I had the drive and saw all the riders who were once a part of the same AIS team step up and perform on the world stage.
“It goes without saying they have earned it and have all worked their arses off, but it definitely gave me a lot of confidence to get back on the bike and train hard.
“During my time off I got a ‘normal job’ and realized that riding a bike would be a pretty good way to earn a living.
“Once I was absolutely sure I wanted to give it another crack I started training again and Tim Decker started coaching me again.
“I think after the break I really knew where I wanted to go and Tim knew how to get me there, I just needed to put faith in him and I think my performance in the NRS was the result of that.”
Herald Sun Tour stage in ’13, this year, that’s a nice result.
“It was probably my proudest win on the road; one I won’t forget for a long time.”
And back on the track for a medal in the scratch at the Worlds – how easy is it for you to go from one discipline to the other?
“I think starting off at a young age on the track has definitely given me an advantage.
“It didn’t take long to learn the boards again, but the training is a totally different ball game and that did take some time to get used to again.
“The power outputs in a team pursuit are so high and once you are out of the gates there’s no time to settle into a rhythm, it’s just full tilt.”
Will we see you with the Aussie team pursuit machine, one day?
“I hope so, that’s the goal!”
You won two kermises back to back – not easy!
“No, but I’ve been lucky to have a very talented group of guys here with me and a little luck doesn’t go astray.”
What are your results to date, in Belgium?
“Three wins so far, one fourth; but the first race was a shocker, it took a little while to get used to the kermis style of racing here.
“We also realized very quickly that the whole team can’t be in the break, ha ha.”
What are the biggest differences between the road in Australia and in Belgium?
“The top 100 here are all quite strong and capable of making the break and pulling.
“I’d say the top NRS riders could mix it here, as I think we’ve shown, but in the NRS you’ll often see the same guys running top 20’s.
“Here, it’s not guaranteed that the strongest will rise to the top, probably partly due to the technical circuits and large numbers.”
The Belgian style obviously suits you.
“Yeah, I love it.”
Do you come up against the ‘Kermis Kings’ much – Bracke, Smet, Willems?
“Yeah, Mario Willems quickly learnt who we were, ha ha!”
Where’s home in Belgium – who does the cooking?
“Lepelbed, it’s a beautiful hotel/bed and breakfast not far from the centre of Gent.
“Norbert, Cathy and Bart look after us and they have been like an extension of our team since we arrived.”
What’s your take on the Belgian way of life?
“I love it.
“The people are very friendly, the country is beautiful and there is an incredible appreciation for the sport here.
“I’d pack my bags now if I had a contract.”
What’s your goal from the Belgian campaign?
“We’re all young guys and the whole trip is about gaining as much experience as possible.
“We’re learning to race as a team too, trusting one another and having faith we can win.
“The guys here will hopefully form part of the Olympic team for Rio, so learning a bit about one another and each other’s racing styles should prove enormously valuable when we get back on the track.”
Luke’s Belgian Results This Season
- 2nd Gullegem (W) elite 1.12B
- 1st Merelbeke-Molenhoek (O) elite 1.12B
- 1st Kluisbergen-Ruien (O) elite 1.12B
- 1st Aalbeke (W) elite 1.12B
- 4th Westrem (Wetteren) (O) elite 1.12B
Photos courtesy of Luke Davison unless otherwise stated.