After his first pro win, Michael Storer is gunning for WorldTour success

After his first pro win at the recent Tour de l'Ain, the West Australian is ready to take it up at a notch at the Vuelta.

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Michael Storer is about to line up for his second Grand Tour of the season. The 24-year-old rider from Perth, Western Australia will be part of a DSM team on the hunt for stage wins in the Vuelta a España. And after winning a stage and the general classification in the UCI 2.1 Tour de l’Ain in late July – his first pro wins – Storer is confident.

“I felt great in that race and my ambition was to aim high,” he tells CyclingTips. “The team rode for me that day [on the final stage]. The plan was to keep it all together on the penultimate climb. I wanted to win both the general classification and [take] the stage win so I needed to attack on that climb.

“Maybe to some people this is a small race but for me it was an emotional win.” 

Storer turned pro at a young age after national and Oceania championship titles in the junior time trial. He won a bronze at the world time trial championships in 2014 as a first-year junior, beating Filippo Ganna in the process. With the Australian Institute of Sport WorldTour Academy setup he went on to ride and win races in Europe, including a stage of the 2015 Aubel-Thimister-La Gleize in the Belgian Ardennes, and then the 2016 GP di Poggiana, one of the tough Italian one-dayers for U23 riders.

Storer also posted some good results in mountainous U23 stage races, like the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d’Aosta Mont Blanc and the Tour de l’Avenir. In 2017, Mitchelton-Scott signed Storer to its development team but in 2018 the young Australian chose to become pro with Team Sunweb – now DSM – when he was 20 years young.

Storer set himself up in Varese, Italy, close to the Australian Institute of Sport centre, and has been living there ever since with his Italian girlfriend. He loves the Italian way of life and speaks fluent Italian. 

“At school I learned Italian,” he explains. “Everyone I asked told me I would regret not learning a foreign language so I did that. It made integration in Italy so much easier for me.

“If you want to make it as a pro you have to move to Europe,” he continues. “It’s not easy especially now we can’t travel back to Australia. I speak to many riders about this. We are all in the same situation. Some have a much stronger desire to go back than I do. It makes it easier that I have my girlfriend here, I guess.”

Storer in action at the 2021 Giro d’Italia.

After working hard for team leader Romain Bardet in the Giro d’Italia earlier this year – with a particularly strong display on the Splügenpass on stage 20 – Storer is ready for his second Grand Tour of the year. On Saturday he will start his fourth Vuelta a España with the goal of taking a stage win.

“I loved my first Giro d’Italia but not so much the weather we had those three weeks,” he says with a smile. “When it wasn’t cold I enjoyed most of the racing. It was also great to have the crowds back on the side of the road.

“The climbs in the Giro are longer and the mountain passes are bigger than in the Vuelta but I like racing the Vuelta because it seems less controlled.”

Team DSM lines up with Romain Bardet, Chad Haga, Martijn Arensman, Nico Denz, Albert Dainese, Martijn Tusveld, and Storer’s fellow Australian, Chris Hamilton. His good mate (and fellow West Australian) Jai Hindley was scheduled to ride too, but dropped out due to a saddle sore.

“We want to go for those breakaway days and [stage] results with the sprints,” Storer says. “We don’t have ambitions for [the] general classification. There are a few stages that will be key for me in particular.

“On stage 7 it will be a hard race with the uphill start and could see a larger group breakaway or a long battle to escape. It’s a day where you have to be feeling strong all race even after having done six stages. Some teams will also be advantaged by course knowledge because it is an area used by many teams for training camps.”

In the 2020 Vuelta a España Storer joined the decisive breakaways on several days which resulted in a third place on the steep Alto de la Farrapona and a sixth place on the even steeper Alto de la Covatilla. It’s no surprise then that he also sees the uphill finishes at Alto de Velefique on stage 9 and the penultimate stage to Castro de Herville as key.

“Stage 9 looks like an epic stage with a pass and finish at high altitude,” he says. “It has plenty of climbing and could be the first day for a big showdown in the general classification. It will surely give us a clear picture who is in the battle for the overall victory.

“Stage 20 will likely be for a breakaway, but maybe there are some last attempts to overhaul the general classsification or the mountains classification. It is the last chance on many fronts for most of the peloton so it will no doubt be a day full of action.”

Storer (second from right) in action on stage 20 of the Giro d’Italia.

“I see myself as a climber,” Storer says when asked how he would characterize himself. “It is the obvious answer I guess but apart from that I am not sure. Maybe it’s good that you can’t define me in a specific way. You know, I am now at the point in my career that I am at a good level all around. I want to keep improving my skills and work on my time trial for future goals.

“I don’t look that far ahead, though. I want to remain at WorldTour level and set achievable goals. Maybe there is more I can do.”

Storer is the kind of guy who just enjoys what he does. No big words. He is softly spoken and a true introvert. He wants his legs to tell the story. He has always been strong uphill and was one of the most promising juniors and U23 riders of his generation. The next step in his career comes with Groupama-FDJ where he has signed for two seasons. 

“The team was interested in me and feel I am a good fit for them,” he explains. “The meetings I had with them felt right. Of course I will help David Gaudu and Thibaut Pinot uphill but I also look forward to my own opportunities in the biggest races. I just won my first race and now I would like to win at WorldTour level too.”

“Michael Storer is a pure climber, a model teammate able to stay with his leaders for a long time,” said Groupama-FDJ directeur sportif Yvon Madiot when the team announced Storer’s signing. “This year, he supported Romain Bardet in all the important moments of the Giro. During David Gaudu’s two victories in the Vuelta, Michael was in the breakaway. He is a very good climber; we needed a rider like him in the group.”

During the upcoming Vuelta, Storer will chase that first WorldTour win as a farewell gift to the team he has spent the first four years of his pro career riding for. And with a couple of fresh wins under his belt, he’ll embark on that quest with a renewed sense of confidence.

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