Fit, healthy and filled with confidence after a solid start to the season, Nathan Earle is hoping to make an impact at the upcoming Tour de Taiwan which runs from 18-24 March. Riding for Australia's number-one team in the National Road Series, Huon Salmon-Genesys Wealth Advisers, Earle says Taiwan is just the start of what he hopes will be a successful season racing the Asia Tour and the Australian domestic scene.
Earle is just one rider in the five-man squad that could take out the title with last year's dual stage winner Anthony Giacoppo also included in the line-up. The race may lack a decisive hill-top finish but Earle, along with his teammates will most likely target a number of stages where a shake-up of the general classification could be made. However, stage profiles often fail to paint a clear picture of the race route especially in the unpredictable Asian race scene.
"I went in 2010 so I'm sort of familiar with it," he told Cyclingnews. "There's nothing super decisive really but it's just going to be fast racing. I sort of know what I'm in for, there's no huge hills and we will probably only have one or two opportunities where we can put pressure on climbs. The first day is probably going to be the most important. It's usually the hardest because there's no pecking order.
"I'm hoping we can do something on one of the climbs, split it up a bit and do a bit of damage and just go from there. For me, that's probably the only way I'm going to win it, if there's a climb big enough I can win on and get a bit of time," he added.
"The team we are taking to Taiwan is good to go. We are back in good form and ready for the tour. We are not going with one particular guy in mind. You can look at course profiles all day but until you actually go there it can be completely different to what the race profiles are saying."
The Huon-Genesys Wealth Advisers rider enjoyed an impressive run of form at the start of 2013, highlighted with a stellar performance atop Arthurs Seat to claim the queen stage at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour before claiming two stages plus the overall win at the UCI 2.2 New Zealand Cycle Classic.
Earle had taken victories at the NZ race in the past, most recently winning three stages at the 2011 edition - won that year by now second-year RadioShack Leopard rider George Bennett - and believes the NRS has attracted a big enough international audience to suggest that it's more than possible to gain a professional contract without heading to Europe. An experience he would probably rather forget after his frustrating stint in Italy last year.
"Last year was a bit of a write-off really so this year I'm staying with Huon-Genesys. I'll do a lot of the domestic racing in Australia, we got a pretty good overseas calendar with Japan, Borneo. I'd like to go back there and win.
"Initially that's why I wanted to go to Italy because if you go well over there then obviously that's the way to go. I proved that it's pretty difficult. You need good form, a good team, good luck, there's whole bunch of things you need in order to do well over there. It's all got to fall into place," Earle told Cyclingnews.
Consistent performances at home and abroad are vital, according to the Tasmanian who intends on returning to races like Tour of Borneo - where he won two stages, took out the KoM classification and finished second overall in 2012 - eyeing the overall title while also taking aim at the tougher NRS tours like Tour of Toowoomba and Tour of Tasmania. Putting it matter-of-factly, Earle plans to dominate specific NRS races and use his anticipated results overseas with the goal of gaining the attention of a larger professional outfit.
"I'm sort of targeting a bit of both but I'm definitely staying with the team this year. I would like to win another UCI tour, do well in Taiwan and then come back to Australia and try to dominate the NRS and other Australian races. Tour of Toowoomba, Tour of Tasmania they are all suited to me as long as I'm in good form. It's just a matter of planning out the racing for the year, not overdoing it and being able to maintain form throughout the year.
"I think with a combination of doing well domestically and some good results overseas, either stage wins or managing to win another tour. It's a good way to go and I think Nathan Haas and Steele Von Hoff showed it can be done. It's getting more and more recognised. Five years ago you would never think you could do just Australian racing and then go to a bigger and better team somewhere else but now there's more of an international audience watching the Australian racing scene. I think it's possible, that's the goal."
The Huon-Genesys Wealth Advisers Cycling Team for Tour de Taiwan: Joseph Cooper (NZl), Jai Crawford (Aus), Nathan Earle (Aus), Anthony Giacoppo (Aus) and Pat Shaw (Aus).