Luke Rowe is pleased to have made waves during his first year in the professional ranks and is delighted with the progress he has made.
"I feel like I've been able to contribute to the team in every race I've taken part in - not necessarily with personal results, but being able to help the team with their goals."
The 22 year old arrived at the team as a graduate of the Great Britain Academy at the end of 2011 and quickly impressed with his positive attitude and unwavering work ethic.
What ensued was a detailed education in pro racing, and an injury-free season allowing the Welshman to complete a comprehensive programme of top-level racing.
The highlight was undoubtedly his first pro win at the Tour of Britain, an opening stage success which gave him an early race lead in his home tour, and 12 top-10 finishes marked him out as a highly consistent performer.
We caught up with Rowe as he began his preparations for 2013, and the Brit was understandably happy to revisit an impressive season.
“I’m really happy to be honest,” he admitted. “I feel like I’ve been able to contribute to the team in every race I’ve taken part in – not necessarily with personal results, but being able to help the team with their goals.
“I think that is what most first-year pros want to do. You don’t go in trying to win races. It’s just about becoming a solid member of the team. That’s what I remember saying at the start of the year and I think I’ve proved that. I’m happy with how the season has gone.”
That season began back in February at the Trofeo Palma Mallorca, with Rowe able to benefit from a short trip from the team’s island training base.
Remembering back, Rowe said: “It seems like years ago now. I was just excited really. To pull the Team Sky jersey on is quite a proud thing to be able to do for a first year professional. So it was just pride and I was excited to race.”
Soon after Rowe was thrust into WorldTour competition, with the tough Vuelta al Pais Vasco stage race followed hot on the heels by the Ardennes Classics - Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
“It was definitely a massive step up. I think that was one thing that I was possibly a bit naive to, the difference in different pro races.
"I used to think every pro race was the same but the difference between a UCI 2.1 and a WorldTour race is massive. At that extra level up everyone is just gunning for it with the points and the way the system works. The racing is pretty dog eat dog and certainly another step up.”
And what was the toughest day on the bike in 2012? According to Rowe: “Possibly one of the days in the Tour de Suisse or Pays Basque. In Pays Basque it was quite early on (in the season) and I was just getting used to the level of racing. It was also hammering it down with rain so probably one of the days there.”
A high point of the season was one which Rowe admits he was not expecting, a high-profile stage victory at the Tour of Britain in Knowsley.
Still philosophical about the achievement, Rowe admits: “Anyone who has watched it knows that we were trying to lead Cav out. But if you’re in the right position in the top five with one kilometre to go enough times then sometimes it will pan out your way.
"It was a nice little surprise and I didn’t expect it, but I’ll take it with both hands!
“A lot of people say your first pro win is the one of the hardest to get. So it was nice to get over that hurdle early in my career and get my hands in the air for the first time. That was cool.”
Rowe displayed an impressive turn of speed, not only in his stage victory but during lead-outs for Mark Cavendish during the year. With the chance to test his speed against his rivals, Rowe is not ruling out more bunch kicks in the future.
“It’s only the last few months of the season where I did think to myself that I could go for bunch sprints.
"I’ve never had a bunch sprint this year where I’ve had the team working for me, I’ve always been working for the team. It’s not until you have the full team support and have a hit out in a race that you’re going to find out if you can do it or not.
"I’m not ruling myself out but obviously I’m really happy to be leading the team out. We’ve got some fast guys in the team but I think I can definitely contest bunch sprints in the future.”
Racing with Team Sky has awarded Rowe plenty of exposure and the chance for friends and family to track his progress.
“I think a lot of people back home don’t really realise what level of the sport you’re at until you join a team like this and you get on the TV and they can actually see you doing your day job.
"It’s been nice for people back home to be able to see what I do nine to five. I’ve got quite a lot of recognition for it back home as people become more aware I guess.”
With the days quickly counting down towards the start of the new season, Rowe has some ideas about how he will approach the challenge of a second year as a pro.
“I’m just looking at the first half of the year,” he revealed, “with a real focus on the cobbled Classics.
"I think in the future that’s possibly where I’d look to excel in my career. I’d love to do well in those type of races. So just to become a reliable and consistent rider in those and be there for the boys. And then it would also be really cool and good for my career if I could get a Grand Tour in the bag next year. We’ve got a lot of world-class riders on the team so we’ll have to see how that one pans out.”