2016 NRS season in review - Part One

Team managers on the year that was in Australian domestic racing

The 2016 National Road Series (NRS) served up some of the best domestic racing in seasons but the year was largely overshadowed by issues off the bike. The calendar was shorter than previous years as several races fell by the wayside, leading to uncertainty for riders, team managers, race organisers and Cycling Australia (CA). A review of the NRS was announced in June of last year by CA with the governing body announcing it is aiming to implement the recommendations for the 2017 season.

With the 2016 season wrapped up and the calendar yet to be announced for next year, Cyclingnews spoke with the team managers of the top-ten teams on the NRS rankings for their thoughts on 2016. The good, and the bad, and what can be done to improve the series for the 2017 season.

Part one of the 2016 NRS season in review features the team managers from the top five teams on the overall NRS classification.

Avanti IsoWhey Sports - Andrew Christie-Johnston

1st overall - 182 points

The best result for the team in 2016?

I don't like to say one individual rider or one individual result so for me it would be winning the overall team standings again. It is a team sport for us and we are not so much about individual results so it would be the overall NRS team win

What worked in 2016 for the NRS?

GTR events. What John Trevorrow brought to the NRS was a very high level of racing organisation, UCI standard, so that was a big positive to have those guys in involved.

What didn't work in 2016 for the NRS?

Communication from Cycling Australia. It was very late notice to everyone right at the beginning of the year about what events we would have on our calendar. Our calendar was constantly changing and I think between the race organisers and the teams involved and CA, there needs to be better communication so all parties know in a timely matter what exactly is going on.

What can be done to improve the NRS for 2017?

The communication is the key. All these stakeholders need to get together and find out exactly what each party wants to get out of this series. Find out from CA how important this NRS series is and what they intend to provide, to both teams and organisers, going into 2017 and onwards. I think the biggest thing is that we need to hear from them and getting information out of them at the moment, is near impossible regarding the 2017 series.

Another team classification for Avanti IsoWhey Sports Con Chronis / Cycling Australia)

mobius Future Racing - Tom Petty

2nd overall – 60 points

The best result for the team in 2016?

I would have to say the Tour of Tasmania win. It was very special for us obviously. Ben came so close in 2014 and it was at the race then that I decided to go out on my own and start mobius. Ben is probably the best rider in NSW and I know how much it means to him. We've worked all year together with Tour of Tasmania in mind and to celebrate afterwards with Ben and team is something I won't forget for a long time. You put a lot of planning into sport and you have an objective. We had a plan to finish top-five of the NRS team classification and put ourselves in a position to win a bike race and we worked out what we needed to do to do that and what riders we needed. We went about ticking off those things and the guys executed it on that day and it just came off. You try so hard for so long at different levels and when you finally get that win, it is a such a relief.

What worked in 2016 for the NRS?

GTR events. Having an events company headed by John Trevorrow and his team was the single biggest factor in the NRS' success this year. I would also say the team sponsors. A lot of the teams have had sponsors come onboard and have really done a lot to support local, grassroots cycling and the National Road Series when a lot of people would find it easy to say 'CA aren't doing much, that shows their intention we are going reduce our interest in the sport as well'. A combination of sponsors sticking with and believing in the sport and still helping out the local teams and also GTR events.

What didn't work in 2016 for the NRS?

Communication. To sum it up, it seems like everything being talked about now is communication. No one actually knows what is happening with a lot of things and that creates unrest and an unstable environment and it all stems from communication. Right now, I am trying to plan for 2017 and I don't know what the calendar is for 2017. I have riders who want to do stints with European Continental teams but it's hard for me to approve that because I don't know what the calendar looks like here. It makes it hard for us to get the most for our riders but it does all come back to communication and lack of communication and lack of involvement in the NRS from CA.

What can be done to improve the NRS for 2017?

There have been a lot of suggestions and a lot of people want to hark on about negatives but a lot of the teams are leading the way and putting in place little initiatives to create their own exposure and are taking charge of creating their own media. What can be done to help the NRS? Improve the communication between the stakeholders and managers and work out how to create a series that long term is meeting Cycling Australia's objectives.

Ben Dyball in the yellow leader's jersey at the Tour of Tasmania (Con Chronis / Cycling Australia)

State of Matter MAAP Racing - Tom Reynolds

3rd overall - 42 points

The best result for the team in 2016?

Hard to put a finger on it as we are still awaiting that overall GC win, but Jesse Kerrison's outstanding sprinting, ably assisted by a great lead out train has been a highlight. Third in the NRS teams was below our stated goals, but we'll take it. Avanti were sublime.

What worked in 2016 for the NRS?

As always, the on road racing was terrific. The stand out event of the year was Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley. Huge congrats to all of the event organisers who pushed ahead in a year when canning racing was the easy option.

What didn't work in 2016 for the NRS?

Obviously a discussion for another day, but the lack of events is number one. As noted the how, why and what to do is a discussion for another day.

What can be done to improve the NRS for 2017?

Hitch our wagon to existing events. For the men, that means a Tour Down Under curtain raiser race, a Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race curtain raiser (assuming it's a WT only race) and join the women's only Goldfields event- there's three extra NRS races without a lot of effort. Beyond that, we'd like to see some new events pop up as well as some old ones make their return. Double figures tours in 2017!

CA could certainly lift their game with regards to stakeholder communications, but we are not in the business of kicking CA as 2016 has been a tough time for all. We just want to see a strong NRS and epic racing in 2017.

Jesse Kerrison wins the under 23 national criterium title (Con Chronis)

Subaru NSWIS & MS - Ben Kersten

4th overall - 40 points

The best result for the team in 2016?

We've had some really good stage wins obviously but finishing second in the to Warrnambool with Ayden Toovey, which is in my opinion the standout event, was a breakthrough after he was in a breakaway for 260km. I think that was pretty monumental. We also had some great wins with Scott Law but that was kind of expected so it was nice to finish the season with Ayden's ride.

What worked in 2016 for the NRS?

What is working is that the quality of the riders is still there. The passion of the teams and riders that stayed around and the races that kept going, it wasn't that deep but the pointy end of those races is still quite good. It's not the quality but the quantity that isn't there.

What didn't work in 2016 for the NRS?

A lack of depth in races and teams. There are some really good riders but there are also some really bad ones. Losing teams and losing races with the uncertainty that we had with the NRS was disappointing because it was starting to be such a great series. The insecurity around it and the lateness around it with everything created a lot of uncertainty and if they just had a bit more certainty, then teams and races would have survived and it would have continued to be a success.

What can be done to improve the NRS for 2017?

There needs to be more certainty and more communication. It didn't work with Cycling Australia running events so handing it back over to individual people and managing those people to run it seems to work. Supporting those people better rather than trying to do it themselves as I think Cycling Australia have enough on its plate then to run a national series. Some communication would really help as they still haven't released very much at all, but we are going ahead, other teams are going ahead, but we need to know what's going on. The teams need to know, the riders need to know... What are we signing contracts for? We are moving ahead but we need communication.

Ayden Toovey in second place on the 2016 Melbourne to Warrnambool podium (Con Chronis)

SASI/Calidus - Brett Aiken

5th overall - 34 points

The best result for the team in 2016?

Second overall at the Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley, and Tour of the Great South Coast where we got a few stage wins so those two tours were out best of 2016

What worked in 2016 for the NRS?

I was pretty impressed by John Trevorrow's races, they have a lot of variation with interesting stages. Tour of Gippsland and Tour of Tasmania were really good races this year. I haven't done them every year and I think Gippsland was pulled out of the NRS last year so it's good to have it back. I think what it does say it that old school promoters like Trevorrow and John Craven know how to run a race. If you are asking what were the better tours of the year and what worked, hands down I would say they were the two better races of the year in terms of making it interesting for the riders, team managers, and it really showcased the countryside.

What didn't work in 2016 for the NRS?

Where do you start? The general lack of communication and fact that the season, I think, didn't start until August. Obviously, with more races pulling out like Tour of Toowoomba, Battle on the Border, Adelaide Tour, Tour de Perth… that's what is not working. That put a massive dent in the NRS, and not just for this year but for years to come, and the reason why is because teams had sponsors who are already starting to pull out, and I think the damage has been done with tours and promoters pulling their races out of the NRS. Like what has happened this year and last year. It's damaging the potential of teams to even be part of the NRS because they can't get sponsors because they are not getting the media exposure. If you don't get sponsors, you don't get quality teams entering the races or the quantity of teams entering the races. It puts a real strain on what the NRS will be next year and years beyond. The damage that has been done the last two years has set us back about five years.

What can be done to improve the NRS for 2017?

Communication needs to be not just improved, but vastly improved. There has been a review going on for some time now and that's where it is breaking down. There has been talk of a review and people on the review are complaining about the review because there is nothing happening. I think it's all well and good to have a plan and say 'we are having a review and it's going to get fixed and we are going to move forward' but even when it's not, I think it's important that the communication is clear to all the parties involved. That is where it has fallen down and there is a lot happening and talk on the ground level with teams, but ultimately we are being led by the top. I understand there are limited resources and things like that, but there is not much dialogue going on. We were meant to have a sit down forum at the road nationals but that was called off and that was badly needed but it was called off with the intention of a review happening, which hasn't happened really. Or if it has, there has been no communication about it.

Unless Cycling Australia are actually prepared to sit down and actually start to listen and really take on board a lot of the team views, have ideas presented and talk about the issues, it's very difficult for me to see it going forward in any positive manner until I see that happen. And that certainly hasn't happened in the last 12-months. What needs to happen is communication and dialogue and being prepared to be criticised. I think CA need to sit back and say 'ok, we are willing to be criticised but we are going to take notes of it and we are going to take the best ideas' and get team managers and people on the ground level involved who can see the real issues that are going on. I think that's really important as CA are going to be asking them to be involved in the NRS so to have them involved in the dialogue is an essential part of rebuilding the NRS. That certainly isn't happening at the moment and we are basically where we are at 12-months ago.

Look out this week for part two the 2016 NRS season in review that features the team's ranked sixth through to 11th on the NRS team standings.

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