Jonathan Cantwell on his way to winning the Tyalgum Cup for the fourth time in January.
Jonathan Cantwell on his way to winning the Tyalgum Cup for the fourth time in January. John Gass

High hopes for Cantwell

JONATHAN Cantwell has set his sights on the Tour de France after signing with cycling's premier team, Saxo Bank SunGard.

The 29-year-old Tweed-raised product has earned the opportunity to ride alongside riders of the calibre of three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, and was on a high yesterday after his signing was announced officially.

"It doesn't get much better than that," Cantwell told the Daily News.

"To get a seat on the Saxo Bank SunGard is a dream come true for me. If I could have chosen a team it would be just this one, so I am obviously extremely pleased."

The deal goes a long way to making up for the heartbreak of Cantwell's recent attempt to further his career in Europe with the Pegasus team.

Cantwell signed with Pegasus but the deal collapsed earlier this year when a sponsor pulled out and the team never competed in a race.

"I was super excited to sign that two-year contract with Pegasus. It was a good time for me to step up in Europe and race over there but it all fell over and I was devastated.

"So to now be given the opportunity to ride for Saxo Bank SunGard is awesome," Cantwell said.

A star junior, Cantwell spent two years with an Italian-based team in 2004-05, before linking with the V Australia racing team and competing at home and in the United States.

As a part of the V Australia squad, Cantwell racked up 100 race victories and became the number one sprinter in the United States.

Earlier this year the former South Tweed Primary School and Tweed River High School student won his first Australian National Championship, in the elite criterium division, and is determined to prove himself in his new team.

"The team is in the World Tour division and there is the opportunity there to do the Tour de France, but to get selected inside the team to do the Tour, that is pretty hard," he said.

"I would like to do at least one of the Grand Tours. That is my personal goal, either the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia or the Vuelta a Espana.

"I am just going to step into the team, pay my dues and build up my confidence inside the team."

Cantwell could have a couple of jobs, including taking the strong lead-out role to help his teammates, or going for the win itself.

"First, it's about doing the job that the team asks me and then if I even get the chance to drive my chance, I'll take it with both hands and go for a win," he said.

Cantwell will leave Australia to train in Copenhagen in about two weeks, then return to Australia for the Tour Down Under in January, which will be his first race for the Saxo Bank team.

But will he return to the Tweed to defend his Tyalgum Cup title, one he has won four times?

"If I am here, I will definitely do it, for sure," he said.

"I realise where I grew up, where a lot of people helped me along the way, and I enjoy supporting that race and showing up to give the locals encouragement."

After the Tour Down Under, Cantwell will take his young family, including his wife Alana and seven-month-old son Jayce, to Europe, where they will live in Monaco for a year.