By Sue George
The TORQ/VIS team is getting an early start on the 2009 season. Based in Australia, the team has registered as a UCI mountain bike trade team for next year, but is already busy racing at home; the first round of the Australian national series kicked off in early November in Adelaide.
"We have developed a highly visible and well organised team made up of some of Australia's top riders," said manager Genevieve Clark. "Our plan is to focus on the national mountain bike events with some of our riders also crossing over for some of the major road races. Our priority is the riders and our aim is to help develop the sport of cycling."
The team is set up as a two-tiered system. Tier 1 is called the TORQ/VIS Team and includes Victoria's top riders and current VIS scholarship recipients Tory Thomas, Robbie Hucker, and Cal Britton. Tier 2, known as the TORQ Team, comprises elite riders and developing riders. The Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) will use this second tier team as a development team.
"We are providing a great development platform for our non VIS riders and offer the highest level of support to our team," said Clark.
The TORQ team began in 2008, as a natural extension of the original team established in 2007. It aims to provide both sponsorship and on the ground support for its racers.
During the 2008-2009 season, both tiers have their sights set on strong results in the Australian MTB National Series, National Championships and Oceania Continental Championships. Some members of the team will be heading to Europe for the World Cups, which are an important part of Australian national team selection process for the 2009 World Championships to be held in Canberra, Australia.
Dan McConnell is one of the team's best-known athletes. He represented Australia at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Tory Thomas has also won her national cross country, marathon and 24 hour solo championships as well as the national cross country series overall. Luke Fetch and Robbie Hucker are both promising young juniors representing Australia at the World Championship.
As for the rest, Clark said, "The majority of the team's riders are up and coming. Even though the elite women riders are in their late 20s, they have really only been racing for a couple of years and are really improving with each race.
"Jo [Wall] and Katherine [O'Shea are part of the AIS Dirt Roads to London Program, and Tory Thomas is a full scholarship holder at the VIS. The U23 riders are the obvious up-and-comers Robbie [Hucker] and Cal [Britton] are recipients of VIS scholarships, and Luke was selected for the World Champs in Italy this year."
The team's top priority is racing Olympic distance cross country events, but it will keep fresh by mixing in short track, marathon and endurance events.
TORQ Team for 2008-9
Elite men:James Maebus, Dan McConnell
Elite women: Katherine O'Shea, Tory Thomas, Joanna Wall
U23 men: Cal Britton, Luke Fetch, Robbie Hucker, Steele von Hoff, Paul Weymouth
Staff: Genevieve Clark (manager), Dean Clark (assistant manager), Garron Buckland (coach), Tim Retchford ( physio), DC (mechanic)
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for a team diary starting soon!