• Graeme Brown has brought his 15 year career top a close. (Sirotti)Source: Sirotti
As he prepares to retire, Australian Graeme Brown has observed today’s professional peloton races with more abandon than the one he joined some 15 years ago.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
12 Nov 2016 - 6:39 AM  UPDATED 12 Nov 2016 - 6:42 AM

The 37-year-old Drapac rider also noted the sport offers less developmental time to young riders, who are increasingly being spat out before they have a chance to make a mark on the world stage.

“It’s not just sport now, it’s not just going out and riding your bike, it’s a business and it’s cut throat,” Brown says.

“If you’re not good enough, you’re out. That’s it. In the past, you would have teams investing in young riders and giving them four years to get better. Now it’s like you’ve got your two years and if you don’t do it you’re out.

“The racing reflects that. Maybe it’s that I’m getting older, but I feel like the peloton is more desperate.

“I don’t know if it’s because you have more social media these days but it seems to me like there are more crashes, which would be because of desperate racing.”

Investment has contributed to the longevity of a 15-year professional road and track career he’ll formally end in Australia next week.

The super domestique has competed with just three trade teams over that span, including a lengthy tenure at the various incarnations of Dutch squad Rabobank.

“I would call myself a loyal person, it’s not that I swap and change,” he says. “I go there, it’s good, I mix well with the people and cycling is about fun.

“If you don’t enjoy your work you’re never going to be good at it and that was definitely something I tried to do, and tried to bring into the team. When we’re on the bike that’s business, when we’re off the bike it’s time to enjoy.

“If you want longevity in anything you’ve got to enjoy it.”

The dual 2004 Olympic gold medallist talks in terms of values when discussing a palmares which includes Madison gold with confidant Stuart O’Grady in Athens.

“It’s honesty. If I wasn’t happy with a product I’d tell them. If I wasn’t happy with a rider, I’d tell them,” he says.

“Alright, some people don’t like that but it’s just being honest. Honesty and commitment to the team.

“As a teammate I think I’d like to be remembered as always the person giving 100 per cent, whether it was for a climber, or a sprinter, dropping them off. I personally felt I always gave 100 per cent, I crossed the finish line always completely empty.”

For the amount of time he has dedicated to the sport, Brown is surprisingly comfortable talking about retirement, unlike other contemporaries who can struggle to say the word even after the event.

“It was pretty easy really, the body isn’t happy anymore, I don’t want to do the efforts, the kids and my wife want me at home,” the former Tour of California stage winner says.

“I’ve got three boys and just the last two years in particular, they’ve not wanted me to go away. Things were pointing this is probably enough, 15 years of thrashing yourself.”

As Brown speaks over the phone from his Perth home, helping one of his sons with a pizza, he admits his final international competition, the Tour of Hainan in China last month, ended on a sad note with Drapac’s Brenton Jones relegated from the podium.

“I don’t know if it was that, or it’s my last UCI race, I did feel sad afterward. I rode back to the hotel by myself,” he says.

“I’ve been racing bikes for 95 per cent of my life, so it was kind of like a realisation that, oh shit, it’s actually stopped now.”

Brown will officially close his career with an eponymous 19 November criterium at Perth’s Claremont Showground, which Rohan Dennis, Cameron and Travis Meyer also headline.

He has never been defeated on the selected stomping ground and doesn’t intend to be at what he describes as a non-ceremonial event.

“I’ve made a very clear point of I want it to be raced, I want to race,” he says of the competition his eldest son will also compete age group in. “I want it to be all guns blazing, everyone having a crack.”