Team Mont are set to make its National Road Series (NRS) debut at the Tour of the Murray River in late July having made the leap into racing at a national level in 2014. The Canberra based team is arguably one of the cleverest in the peloton with its riders all pursing higher education before discovering the joys of racing with a collection of servants, scientists, economist and IT consultants.
Cyclingnews caught up with team manager Kenneth Webster to find out about the decision to become a NRS team and how what he expects from the 2014 NRS season.
CN: How was your preparation for the start of 2014 NRS series and how are you finding the season?
At that end of 2010 myself and some rider who are now part of the team were training together in the Canberra development squad. Nothing was happening then and we were pretty new, I think we all started in D-Grade. So we thought let's all get together and a bunch of us thought 'let's make a team.'Originally it was just for the Canberra Cycling Club Wednesday afternoon criterium series.
From there, through an acquaintance I knew someone at Mont Adventure Equipment, I said that 'we're looking for someone to give us a name and something we can base ourselves under' and he said 'ok' back in 2011. That was how we went along for a couple of years and at the end of 2013, people kept asking me questions about NRS events and a bunch of us ended up racing with the Canberra Cycling Club team at the National Capital Tour last year.
We thought . well let's do something on our own for 2014 and to give us some time and looking at what races are close to Canberra, we decided on Tour of the Murray River for our first race.
CN: How do you decide on your team rosters? What processes do you go through in recruiting riders?
Half of us were from the team that came out of the Canberra Development Team; myself, James Toole, Ben Smyth and Ben Cooper. We were already together, however, we knew that there were a couple of other riders from the development squad that didn't have a team but were keen on doing something.
Although I am the team manager, I didn't just want to bring in riders that people would be unhappy about as our number one priority isn't to go out there and beat everyone, but how we work as a team and having a good time together.
I put the questions to everyone and everyone agreed to let the riders join us. So that's when Tristian Dimmock, Michael Thomas and Callum Heiner joined the team. We have almost a list of 'rules' that people have to abide under and it's about following road rules, sticking to your training, and basic rules like that and everyone was happy with them. So that's how we ended up with the eight riders that we have.
CN: What are the expectations of the team for the 2014 season?
We all work full-time and we are a mature age team really, besides Tristian who is still at University full-time, so I have realistic expectations that people can only put so many hours into training when they have work and other things going on in their lives.
I've said that as long as the riders are consistent with their training and you can be at a level that is competitive for our target races, it doesn't matter that you don't win. I do expect people to be able to compete in those races just as any other riders though.
CN: What is your racing calendar?
Because of full-time work and being self-funded, I said lets pick the races that we can drive to in a day and compete at so we don't have to take too much time out. So those races are the Tour of Murray Valley, Grafton to Inverell, Melbourne to Warrnambool and the National Capital Tour.
Other races that riders are keen on competing at are events around ACT, NSW and VIC such as the Riverina races. Because of our age, a lot of us are eligible for the NSW Masters Championships in Grafton and National Masters Championships in Ballarat. We also like the VRS races and we will all do Tour of Bright.
CN: Is there a particular race the team is targeting this year? Why?
Because we are only going to four races, I would expect everyone to target those four. It's not too much to ask, I don't think. I said to everyone that as long as you're peaking for those four races, you can do whatever races you like.
CN: What are your thoughts on the NRS calendar in terms of length and location?
I think its quiet good but we're just not in the condition to enter every race but from what I can see, there is something in every state and territory and runs from February through to the end of the year. We're just limited in picking which races we can afford the time and money to enter.
CN: What is the hardest race on the NRS calendar?
I think the Tour of Tasmania is quiet hard but having said that, the courses for the National Capital Tour are just as hilly. Last year they had us going out to Apollo Road which is quiet a climb and the road back had some nice little gutsy climbs as well.
CN: Financially, what are the major challenges in racing the NRS?
For us, because we don't actually get any money to attend races or anything really, the registration fee isn't a problem but it comes down to the riders themselves being able to pay for travel and accommodation.
CN: Who are your main financial and equipment sponsors?
As the team isn't paying for anything, it doesn't have any expense and it's the riders who are paying for themselves.
I don't think that Mont will actually be pursuing a long-term NRS team and personally, I need to see how this year goes and how much time is involved with attending the Murray Tour, which is the longest race we'll attend.
Once I've been able to see what is involved and how much time I need to put in, I'll make a decision at the end of the year whether to go again in 2015 or say 'we gave it a go and got the experience.'
2014 Team Mont roster: James Toole, Kenneth Webster, Jared Greenville, Tristan Dimmock, Michael Thomas, Ben Cooper, Ben Smyth and Callum Heiner.