This is the fourth of a five-part series of interviews in which Saxo-Sungard’s latest recruit, Jonathan Cantwell, talks candidly about his outstanding career so far, the devasting time with Pegasus, and the roller-coaster of emotions experienced on his way to riding with one of the World’s top cycling teams.
(Read previous parts of The Cantwell Chronicles by clicking on “Interviews” on main menu)
Towards the end of 2010, it was all about Chris White,V Australia and Pegasus. When were they first thinking of going to a pro tour team?
Chris always had the long term objectives to become the 1st pro tour team to come out of Australia and obviously with Green Edge knocking on the door I guess that pushed him a little bit harder to get there a little bit quicker.
I was excited with Pegasus, to step away from the American circuit and get back to Europe and have a crack at that, and race the pro tour on a regular basis.
My high this time last year was almost what it is right now, and the infrastructure was perfect. We had a training camp, we had the equipment supplied, we had all the riders from Europe and Australia come to the training camp up on the Sunshine coast and everything was in place.
But it didn’t quite work out for the team when one of the major sponsors pulled out.
The concept fell over and collapsed.
Probably one of the hardest things was, when it collapsed at such a late stage, some of the riders for that team didn’t even have jobs anymore – That was a career ender for a lot of guys.
The aura of the Pegasus team was incredible. For something like this to come out of Australia was exciting beyond belief, and to have guys like Robbie McEwen involved, just made it so much better.
Unfortunately what probably should have happened was for some Australian company to have said said, ‘Hey, hang on, 2 million bucks or whatever isn’t a helluva lot of money to us, why don’t we just back this program and get it up and running” .
But it didn’t happen, and at the end of the 2010, 25 riders were out of a job, 25 staff were out of a job, and everyone was scrambling around.
I remember having a conversation with Robbie about it and he was saying,”It’s not looking good” and my stomach just fell, I was speechless. I think the worst thing was having that training camp, and Director Sportifs, and all the riders in place… we’d become close friends and built a relationship..
We had celebrated with my family and friends, and done this and that, we tried financially to set ourselves up because we had a 2 year contract.
When that fell over I almost hung the bike up. It was just too hard….
Jittery Joes had fallen over and now Pegasus. Is this what I want to do for the next 10 years?
Unfortunately, when you’ve got a love for the sport as I do and you want to make it work, you just keep going.
I guess that was probably the darkest days, in that you were right up and then it all came crashing down
Yeah, the highest point of your life and then, you’ve done this. Everything you’ve worked for in the past 5 or 6 years has paid off and then when you’ve almost had it in your hand, its fallen right in front of you. Someone’s taken it away from you.
At this point were you thinking how can I get something a bit more secure? Were you in contact with other teams?
When Pegasus fell over in 2010, it was so late, for somebody like me.
I didn’t have any UCI points, I hadn’t to been in Europe since I was a junior, so to speak, and it was a bit of a risk for European directors and teams to take somebody like me on board, even though had a list of dream results up till that stage.
But as mentioned before, it’s all about having the right person to contact, to get that golden opportunity.
In 2010 my manager, same as other pro cyclist managers, said, “We’re doing it, we’re pushing wherever we can”, but with teams collapsing all over the place there just wasn’t a spot for me.
So I was just fortunate enough that Virgin Australia still had a year’s contract with their sponsorship which allowed me to slot back into the V Australia program.
If that hadn’t been there I don’t know whether I’d still be riding
How was that transition back into V Australia ?
There was definitely some tension, that’s for sure.
I was one of the captains that year and I was a captain this year as well. I think people were relieved, because they know how many bike races I tend to win – sort of guaranteed them some prize money.
Slotting back into V Australia was not a drama, I knew most of the guys, there were a couple of young guys which was good, and these18-20 year olds gave me a chance to mentor and help out.
As a young guy I had been through a lot myself, and now I had the opportunity to pass on my experience and guidance as best I could.
I was eventually able to make 2011 work, and I had a pretty good year, but if I hadn’t been able to secure a Pro Contract this time around, I don’t reckon I could see myself carrying on just going through life, going through the motions just knowing my ability as a cyclist and my personal ambitions and goals weren’t going to get reached.