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Nathan Earle (Huon Salmon-Genesys) takes his first NRS victory of the year atop Zig Zag
Stage and KoM winner eyeing Battle on the Border title
Simply being one of the team's best climbers is no longer enough to secure leadership status on the Huon Salmon-Genesys Wealth Advisers squad, according to the clear victor of the KoM classification at the Woodside Tour de Perth. Nathan Earle says its his teammates' ability against the clock that made him step up his game when it comes to time trialling and that the same urgency flows deep throughout the entire team - evident on Day 2 when the team placed five riders inside the TT's top-10.
The Tasmanian-based team controlled the four-day race with a heavy hand and once Joe Cooper won the TT and pulled on the leader's jersey, his time in yellow never appeared in doubt. The team walked away with nearly every classification jersey on offer apart from the party spoiler Sam Horgan (Budget Forklifts) who secured the sprint jersey on the final stage. Everything else, bar two out of the four stages, went to Huon Salmon-Genesys. A worthy achievement for the team that has been the number-one domestics squad for the past three years.
"We couldn't really ask for too much more," Earle told Cyclingnews in regard to the haul of prizes that were taken home after four days of racing.
"As far as riders go we have probably the strongest squad the team has ever had, I reckon it rivals, if not better than 2011 when we had Steele [Von Hoff] and [Nathan] Haas. The quality is up in the whole NRS field but we are another level up as well. The team is just super strong."
Earle took out Stage 3 atop the twisting Zig Zag climb and with another powerful display of climbing on the final day in Bold Park, he conquered the KoM classification well and truly. Coming off the Tour de Taiwan where he won a stage and finished fifth overall helped with the confidence leading into Perth and with the Battle on the Border just weeks away, he's believes he can only go up from here.
"I think Taiwan was ideal really. Coming from a big tour like that certainly helps the confidence for myself and the guys. But after you come from an international tour like Taiwan you have some easy days and then start doubting yourself; 'can I do that again or has the form gone?' but we showed in the first NRS tour that we were dominant and rode really well as a team.
"I've still got my climbing legs and I think I'm going to be able to maintain that and only get better over the rest of the year," said Earle.
The opening Subaru National Road Series race of 2013 may have been just four-days and 332km long but there was more than enough distance to expose those who had perhaps lacked the benefit of one or two pre-NRS stage races this year. Earle says he enjoyed travelling to Perth and Rottnest Island for the first race of the year and while there may have been a bit of travelling it was something different from the usual East-coast format with elements to the race that kept it exciting.
"It's a short tour but it's not the shortest we have ever had. Considering it's the first NRS tour of the year it's ideal. Teams often haven't raced together since perhaps National's and it's probably their first hit-out.
"The stages weren't that long but if you look through the results, the amount of damage that was done was just incredible," he told Cyclingnews.
Mentally ready for Battle on the Border
The next round of the NRS will be back on the East coast for Battle on the Border from 2-5 May and it's a race that appears to suit the rider who has made significant improvements to his individual tests against the clock and will no doubt relish the chance to really test his legs on the tour's final hill-top finish at Mount Warning.
"I've shown I can hold my own in a TT now. I'm not a specialist, I can't win but because it's only 9km (9.3km) I'm confident I won't lose too much time there and that Jack Haig or Joe can win there.
"With the hilltop finish, I think that's where the tour will be won. We've showed we need just one stage to take yellow and once we've got it doesn't matter what any other stage is, the team can defend the yellow.
"The tour is probably going to be more suited to us than Perth," adding that a number of his teammates could win the overall before suggesting the Stage 2 time trial will likely determine who the team rides for leading into the most decisive stage to Mt Warning.
However, Earle knows that no NRS is ever gifted and named a number of riders who he believed could potentially wreck the Huon Salmon-Genesys best laid plans.
"Adam Semple is going really well I don't think he's hit top form yet," speaking about the rider who finished second on the difficult Zig Zag stage around Kalamunda.
"Eric Sheppard (search2retain-health) is quite good on the climbs and is always the guys who will go in a break to have a bit of a crack, then there's a few Budget riders but I'm not sure how they will go on the climb. We haven't seen it yet but we will go early to check it out."