Replicating the impressive victory haul of 2011 was always going to be difficult for the Genesys Wealth Advisers team this year. Team manager Andrew Christie-Johnston admits that such dominant success will likely never be seen again. With the Australian calendar wrapped up, Christie-Johnston is charged with forming a squad that can remain the country’s number one cycling team - after winning the NRS team title for the third consecutive year.
Rebuilding the team in 2012 after the departure of Steele Von Hoff - Garmin-Sharp’s latest recruit - and Nathan Haas, who will enter his second year riding for Vaughters' ProTeam, was a huge challenge for Christie-Johnston. The team didn’t deliver the same amount of wins but they did achieve its primary goal: to be Australia’s number one team.
"If people compare last year to this year, like we do ourselves, we could be disappointed with what we achieved," said Christie-Johnston to Cyclingnews. "We didn’t have anywhere near the same success but our ultimate goal has always been to be the number one team in Australia. To win that for a third time in a row is definitely ticking one of those boxes.
"The competition was a lot stronger and I think that was always going to happen on the basis of us being so dominant the year before. It made other teams step up. Personally, it’s great for cycling."
Prolific winners of stages and general classification titles, Steele Von Hoff and Nathan Haas provided the team with a heavy chance to win nearly every race they entered.
Pat Shaw, Anthony Giacoppo and Joel Pearson also took wins in 2011 at the Tour of the Murray River, Melbourne to Warrnambool and Shipwreck Coast but not to the same extent as Von Hoff and Haas - who both left the squad at the end of 2011.
"Everyone likes winning but for me, I’m in it for the development of cyclists and not just for our team. It’s nice to see riders take that next step no matter who they are."
In 2012, the team looked to Anthony Giacoppo, "who didn’t get noticed much last year" to try and do what Von Hoff and Haas achieved together - win stages and tours. And he made a serious attempt at doing so.
"Steele won a lot of stages but didn’t win a single tour but Nathan won many tours," added Christie-Johnston. "For Anthony to step up and do both was challenging. If you are trying to win a stage in the [NRS] tours you have to step back, especially in crits, relax and let your team do the work. But if you are trying to win a tour you have to go for all these intermediate sprints."
One of the most significant challenges for the riders this year was to lift their own performances, especially those who rode with Von Hoff and Haas in 2011. The result was a more rounded team that shared leadership on the road.
"We had Campbell Flakemore step up and win a few stages which was great, Nathan Earle as well. I think it was spread rather than just the two but I think it’s always going to be difficult for us and even our riders who were there the year before. To be so dominant, it is difficult to take and not get that same success."
Building for continued success
Just as Christie-Johnston re-built his team for 2012, he has been busy doing the same for the coming year. There will be riders moving on but for the moment the team manager was content to inform Cyclingnews that the NRS peloton would soon be introduced to the "strongest team yet."
One of the perks that come with managing Australia’s number one team is the amount of interest it received from riders wanting to sign-up. Christie-Johnston says he could have compiled a list of riders far bigger than his budget would allow however, he is satisfied the roster for 2013 will be more than capable.
"We have a full squad of 16 riders and there is five new guys coming into the team who, in my mind are good signings and capable of winning races," Christie-Johnston told Cyclingnews.
"Next year is going to be a cracker of a year. I know Drapac has a few key riders and they’ll be strong while Budget Forklifts will be out there actively. They’ve probably got the biggest challenge - a challenge like we had - losing some of their top riders. They’ll have to get out there and see who they can get.
"It’s going to be the strongest team yet. I could have made three really good squads so if I can do that, I’d imagine next year is going to be a ripper."