DRAPAC Pro Cycling - Nationals 2015
Leading into the 2015 National Championships, we arrived in Bright for the Drapac Pro Cycling Team training camp.
A chance to bond with new teammates, the camp was situated in the perfect location to train, relax and prepare for the season ahead.
After a successful camp, we headed to Ballarat in the Jaguar team cars and arrived at our accommodation in preparation for the Criterium National Championships.
The first race of the year saw Sam Spokes, Camo Peterson, Bernie Sulzberger, Graeme Brown, Mal Rudolph, Travis Meyer and I take to the start line in search of victory.
Early on in the 40-lap race, many small attacks created gaps in the peloton and it was an aggressive start.
The guys shared the workload around, consistently covering moves and representing the team in numerous breakaway groups to put us on the front foot.
I was feeling pretty good, supported well by the team and riding good position for most of the race.
As the laps ticked over, we struggled to compose as a team and prepare for the final lead-out. For some of us, we were racing together for the first time with each other, so our communication let us down in the end.
Not being able to get the lead-out together as a team, we were never in a position to give us a good crack at the finish, falling well short of a place and coming home in 8th. A disappointing result for the team, but it can only get better from here with a long year ahead of us.
A few days’ recovery, and it was onto the road race around the grueling Mt Buninyong circuit.
The 18-lap elite race featured a quality field, which was headlined by Grand Tour stage and overall winners such as Cadel Evans, Michael Rogers, and Richie Porte.
With 14 Drapac Professional Cycling riders on the start line, we definitely had the numbers advantage on our side.
The challenging course is always a battle of attrition and despite having the numbers, we’d need to ride well as a team to give the title a good crack.
The 10km circuit features a 6.5minute climb followed by a fast flat and downhill run into the finish, so before you know it, the lap begins again and the climb gradually fatigues you, lap by lap.
Conditions were perfect, overcast and cool with a little bit of wind, a rare sight to the typically hot conditions from previous years.
From the first lap, it was clear that Orica-GreenEdge weren’t going to let anything slip away too easily, but we did our best to represent ourselves in the moves.
Sam Spokes was on the charge early with local hero Pat Shaw, but they were slowly reeled back in a couple of laps later.
The first main break of the day saw teammates Will Clarke, Camo Peterson and Lachlan Norris make the move and ride strongly to collect some sprint & KOM points along the way.
The laps ticked over and the climb was starting to take its toll on many riders. I tried to help position our team leaders when I could, moving them up to the front when the time was right.
We were always on the front foot the whole race, the guys riding superbly to create the moves and make the race, with Will Clarke making a solo move riding clear of the breakaway.
Lap 15 saw the end to my race, the climbing circuit a little too much after 150km’s.
The field came back together with 5 laps to go, but shortly after, a new leading group was established. This time, it was Robbie Hucker, Sam Spokes and Darren Lapthorne who represented us in the break of 12, so we were positioned well with 3 laps left to race.
With their breakaway companions looking at the boys to do all the work, Robbie Hucker worked tirelessly on the front, driving the group to set up Sam and Darren.
They gave it everything they had on the final lap, attacking their breakaway companions on more the one occasion each.
At the finish, after trying numerous times in the last 3km’s to go solo, Sam Spokes claimed 5th place, a tremendous ride by the young talent, representing Drapac at the pointy end of the field.
Not far behind the leaders, Travis Meyer placed 12th and Lachlan Norris 16th, another two great performance amongst the worlds best, finishing in the main peloton containing the likes of Cadel Evans and Richie Porte.
Will Clarke’s persistence in the break saw him accumulate enough points to be crowned the Sprint King & KOM winner for the race.
It was a terrific effort from the whole team, doing everything right, but being beaten by better riders on the day.
We’ll look forward to seeing what the team can do in the Tour Down Under, the next event on the calendar. Good luck to teammates Wouter Wippert, Graeme Brown, Travis Meyer, Jordan Kerby, Will Clarke, Tim Roe and Martin Kohler who’ll be flying the Drapac Pro Cycling colors.
I’ll be preparing for the 62nd Herald Sun Tour, my next race of the year, which takes place between the 4-8th of February. We’ll have a strong team and I’m looking forward to the fast and exciting racing, aiming for some results.
Big thanks to all of our sponsors of the Drapac Pro Cycling Team, and our team staff who support us on and off the bike.
I’m looking forward to the year ahead, there is some great racing on the cards and I can’t wait to share my experiences.