Pursuit of new quest
IF IT weren't for the looming London Olympics, there's little chance Michael Hepburn's 2012 could surpass this year for eventfulness.
Turning professional, world championship success, winning stages of some of Europe's most prestigious road races and being dismissed from one of them for an offensive hand gesture - it is enough to make a highlights reel of most cyclist's careers, let alone one year.
As he prepared to make his professional debut in the Jayco Bay Classic in Geelong on New Year's Day, Hepburn was able to take stock of where he'd been and where his path may yet take him.
Hepburn was enjoying a holiday with his family on the Gold Coast when the QT caught up with him this week.
For Hepburn that means daily rides of between two to six hours as he prepares for his professional debut for the Michelton Wineries Team, a development team for the Greenedge Cycling team.
Hepburn was one of the last riders signed to Greenedge's 30 cyclist roster last month.
Greenedge is Australia's first professional world tour team and is likely to compete in the Tour de France in 2012.
Contesting a Tour de France is a long-term goal for Hepburn but it is not on his radar at the moment, with the London Olympics the number one goal in 2012.
"It is a good time to be turning professional," the Ipswich Cycling Club star said.
"It had been in the works for a while but it is still a bit of a relief when it happens.
"It's very exciting being part of Australia's first professional team to race at this level. With the experience and knowledge on the team, it is pretty exciting."
For Hepburn it doesn't change anything in the short term.
"Greenedge is supporting me (going to the Olympics)," he said.
"I'll tailor a race program around that and be in peak physical position in August."
Hepburn is part of the world champion Australian track pursuit team and claimed bronze in both the senior individual pursuit in The Netherlands on the track and time trial at this year's under-23 road world championships in Copenhagen.
In the Jayco Bay Classic, Hepburn will be happy to help his teammates out, rather than chase any personal glory.
"It's good physical preparation (for national titles)," he said.
"Good to get some racing in the legs."
The national road championships follow immediately after the Jayco Bay Classic at Bendigo (January 5-10).
"I've got a job to do at the Bay Criteriums (Jayco Classic) and nationals," Hepburn said.
"It's Greenedge's first year so we want to win some races.
"I've got no personal goals.
"I'll do what I can for the team.
"The nationals are a big race for Greenedge and it would be nice to have the national champions jersey for the team."
Hepburn then turns his attention to the track, ahead of the national titles in Sydney from February 23-27.
"The track nationals are more of a personal goal for me," he said.
"The individual pursuit is a big goal. I'm up against the world champion (Jack Bobridge).
"Jack's the best in the world but we've got some other good talent.
"We're all very close so it comes down to fractions of a second and doing something special on the day."