Rising to the test

Joel Peterson | Bendigo Weekly | 01-Dec-2017

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Robbie Hucker has signed with team Ukyo. Photo: ANDREW PERRYMAN
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A LOT is about to change in the life of Robbie Hucker.

The 27-year-old wrapped his season with the Australian IsoWhey Sports team last month with a 10th-placed finish at the Tour of Hainan, bringing to an end a busy campaign.

Most would expect the ensuing months to be filled with rest and relaxation, but not so for the Bendigo boy.

He will enter 2018 a married man – his and fiance Paige’s wedding is today – and also link up with a new professional team.

“It’s an exciting time. It’s been busy, definitely, but really exciting,” he said.

“It’s a very different approach to what I’m used to, normally it’s all about the bike, but it’s a good way to mix it up.”

After he ties the knot and heads to Bali on his honeymoon – volcanic ash notwithstanding – Hucker’s next priority is to learn Japanese.

That’s in no small part to further impress the bosses of his new team, Ukyo Cycling.

“So far my Japanese isn’t too good, but I’ll try to pick that up as much as I can,” Hucker said.

Ukyo is the top-ranked team in the Asian circuit, bankrolled by former Formula One driver Ukyo Katayama.

While the business’s core interest is in motorsport, Mr Katayama is a big cycling fan – so naturally he started his own squad.

Countryman Nathan Earle rode with the squad this season, but makes the move to join Israel Cycling Academy for 2017 where he will ride alongside central Victorian Zak Dempster.

The team touched base with Hucker early in the year to express its interest in the ultra-consistent Aussie after his strong form at the national titles, the Herald Sun Tour and several races in Asia.

Hucker then rode in Europe, again performing strongly, and later in the year signed a contract to join the powerful Japanese squad.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Andrew Christie-Johnston and all the guys at IsoWhey, they are a top team and I leave with really good relationships with all of them,” he said.

“It’s really based more on the factors away from cycling itself. I was keen to learn the language, to experience the culture and challenge myself in a completely different environment.

“It’s one of those things that if I hadn’t done it, I would probably look back on the chance in a few years and wish I had.”

On exposed form, you’d back Hucker in to excel in most environments.

His past two years have seen him, in his own words,“knuckle down a bit” and that has shown in his results.

In 2016 he started the year eighth at the national championships in Ballarat, seventh at the Sun Tour, the winner of the Tour of Taiwan and six times
in the top 10 on stages at the Tour of Japan.

This year, Hucker did not finish outside the top 25 in any race he contested including a fifth at the Tour of Japan, fourth at the Tour of Hungary, second in the Hong Kong Challenge and 10th at Hainan.

“It was a really good year, I was happy with it. Finishing now and having some time off the bike is a good chance to have some time off the bike and reflect on how well the season has gone,” he said.

“I’ve worked really well with my coach, Mark Fenner, and hopefully we can transition that next year into a few more wins.”

He takes two years of solid form into his maiden campaign with Ukyo, and is prepared for plenty of change.

“I think there‘ll be some different races in there. A few similar ones in Asia, but also the chance to do a bit of riding in Spain hopefully too,” he said.

Of course, when you’re about to get married, these decisions don’t come easily.

“Paige was really keen for me to do it and encouraged me,” Hucker said.

“Hopefully we’ll get to do some travel in the year. I definitely owe a fair bit of it to her.”

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