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Christie-Johnston optimistic for team to bag another upset victory
Andrew Christie-Johnston's Genesys outfit have once again come to the Jayco Herald Sun Tour with the ability to out-race some of the team's more experienced and better-known rivals.
In 2010, their success was through the overall win of Nathan Haas which sprung from a savvy move on Stage 1. Now in 2013 Aaron Donnelly, a new face to the team, has taken out a tough 147.7km Stage 1 at the Bendigo Velodrome, claiming the yellow jersey and earning a 2:45 lead over one of the pre-race favourites Simon Gerrans who is riding for the Australian National Team.
"The win with 'Haasy' was a highlight since I've been with any team and that's always going to be hard to back up," a beaming Christie-Johnston told Cyclingnews following Donnelly's win. "Losing 'Haasy' and Steele [Von Hoff] last year, while it was fantastic to see them take that next step, it knocks our strength about.
"We're definitely re-building but I'd say that this year we've probably got the best squad that we've ever had."
It's a big call from the Huon Salmon - Genesys Wealth Advisers' boss but it comes with gravitas considering this is the man largely responsible for propelling the likes of Richie Porte, Will Clarke along with Haas and Von Hoff to the highest echelon of the sport.
Donnelly is part of that re-building effort and the Genesys success rate was something that the 21-year-old took into account when he was on the lookout for a team for this season. "Genesys approached me just after my second place in the Warrnambool and it seemed like the right place for me," Donnelly explained on Friday. "They're a great team and they've developed a lot of guys for the next level which is where I want to go. So it's just made sense to come across."
The Tasmanian-based outfit now has a 55 second lead over nearest rivals Jayco-VIS in the team classification, while Donnelly is 14 seconds ahead of the man he beat in the velodrome, Calvin Watson (Jayco-VIS). Donnelly also leads the sprint and under 23 classification. Whether his charge can hold on with the likes of Simon Gerrans and Simon Clarke (Australian National Team) hovering at 2:45 in 9th and 10th respectively, gave Christie-Johnson reason to hedge his bets.
"Maybe for GC there're two better strong climbers there with him but we've just got to take it when we can," he explained with Nathan Earle and Jai Crawford on the roster for the event which concludes and could possibly be decided with two laps of the tough Arthurs Seat climb on Sunday evening. The highest point on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula is not long at three kilometres, but for what it lacks in length it makes up for in steepness with a gradient of between eight and 10 per cent - which can double on some of the bends.
"Donnelly committed all day and I'm just so happy," Christie-Johnston concluded. "Aaron's in good form so we'll give him every opportunity we can but to get a stage win, that's important to us. If we can do better by winning the tour, then great. It's going to be successful now anyway."