One of Australia's most successful Continental teams, Drapac Professional Cycling will be mixing things up next season. The team's sporting director Agostino Giramando has decided to forgo the usual European stint in favour of an increased focus on the steadily growing Asia Tour.
Giramondo wants to build a team capable of rivalling the strongest teams on the Asian circuit in some of the toughest races. The Asia Tour has presented the team with plenty of opportunities over the years but the European campaign has meant a number of invitations have been turned down. In 2013 however, the team will race a much heavier Asian schedule while ensuring the National Road Series, which begins later in the season, is not left forgotten.
"Next year is going to be predominantly Asia. We've decided we are going to give Europe a miss in 2013. We really want to do more racing in Asia. We want to target Qinghai Lake, we've had an invite for the past two years but we've been in Europe. We are formulating a team that can ride those types of races," said sports director Agostino Giramondo to Cyclingnews.
Tour of Qinghai Lake is a notoriously difficult tour which has seen even the most seasoned professionals struggle with the conditions and altitude, that frequently reaches in excess of 3,000m above sea level but Giramondo is confident his team will be more than capable. A number of riders are moving on and stepping back in 2013 but Giramondo will ensure the roster is appropriately filled for the coming season.
"There's a few riders scaling down and a couple will be leaving. We are negotiating with two or three other riders but once again we will have a very strong squad," Giramondo said.
With victories at Tour of Tasmania and Floris Goesinnen's victorious weekend at Melbourne to Warrnambool and Shipwreck Coast Classic fresh in the air, many would assume Grafton to Inverell would be the next stop for the team ranked second in the NRS team standings with three riders in the top-ten of the individual classification however, a timing clash means they will miss the final NRS race of the year.
"We are going to China for the UCI 2.2 Tour of Lake Taihu. We would have to fly out the day Grafton finishes. If it was a little bit closer to home we could do it but it's just a bit too much of a logistical nightmare. We will have one or two riders in the race but the majority will be flying to China."
Considering the Australian calendar starts in January with the Bay Classic series and is quickly followed by the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and National Championships, racing this late into the year means that most of the riders take a short mid-year break and have limited time off at the end of the year.
"Two weeks after Taihu, the last race of the year is another UCI tour in Japan, the Tour de Okinawa. The calendar starts on the 1st of January with Bay Crits and Nationals and here we are approaching November and into late November and the guys are still racing. It doesn't give the guys much of a chance to rest before restarting again for January," Giramondo told Cyclingnews.
Missing NRS races like Grafton to Inverell is a situation Giramondo hopes won't always be the case in 2013 but he admits that it will require careful balance. While the team is increasing their Asia Tour focus and removing the European campaign, it won't mean any less racing for the riders. Giramondo also hopes to be able to field teams in Asia and Australia when and if they overlap.
"There's Qinghai Lake in China, Tour of China and next year we would like to venture into Korea and another one or two tours in Malaysia. Taiwan is again on the programme - Rhys Pollock won that race this year. If you add those races it makes up for that stint we usually do in Europe."
"It will be a balancing act trying to race Asia and still do the full NRS. In past years we know that we go to Europe in May and June, rest in July and then we know we can do nearly all the NRS races from the 1st of August to what we have done now. In saying that we missed three NRS tours this year being in Europe so hopefully we will be able to do them next year.