The hottest two young prospects to come out of the Australian domestic scene in many years, Nathan Haas and Steele Von Hoff, will join Jonathan Vaughters' Slipstream Sports in 2012. Haas will go straight to the WorldTour team Garmin-Cervelo, while Von Hoff will first serve an apprenticeship with the Chipotle development roster with a view to moving to the WorldTour squad in 2013.
For 22-year-old Haas the announcement caps an impressive 12 months, that has seen him dominate the Australian National Road Series. His dream run continued into October with Haas taking consecutive overall victories at the Tour of Tasmania and the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, before a somewhat surprise win at the 1.HC Japan Cup.
Joining up with one of the strongest teams on the WorldTour in Garmin, is just reward for the Australian, considering both the ability and consistency he has displayed in 2011 and realises a long-term objective that a lesser-known Haas outlined back in June.
In the official release, Haas said that it was a "dream come true to be signing with Garmin."
"To even be considered as part of such an incredible outfit is humbling in itself, and I look forward to the next two years working under some of cycling' greats with a huge sense of enthusiasm and optimism," said Haas. "Simply put, to leave my development in Garmin-Cervélo’s hands, I could not be happier."
And as manager Andrew Christie-Johnson explained to Cyclingnews it was only after Haas' Sun Tour win that Garmin-Cervélo's incoming sports director Allan Peiper became convinced that Haas could make it at the top level of the sport.
"I spoke to Peiper earlier in the year to see if we could get something arranged for Nathan, with the view of getting him in to the development team for next year," said Christie-Johnson. "After the Tour of Tasmania, he said that something could be done, but then with the result at Sun Tour, he made the decision that he was mature enough to go straight through to the WorldTour team.
"[In my eyes] Garmin-Cervélo is a perfect team for Nathan. They develop riders extremely well and I am sure that under the guidance of Jonathan Vaughters and Pieper we will see Nathan flourish over the next few years. It is a perfect match."
Having uncovered a number of top Australian talents over the years it quickly became clear to Peiper that Haas was a rider he needed to sign up as soon as possible.
"I've been following Nathan for the last couple of months and have been in contact with his coach, Andrew Christie-Johnson. Needless to say we are thrilled he’s made the choice to begin his World Tour career with Garmin-Cervélo and we look forward to helping him continue to develop his great talent."
"One of the thing that really attracted me to Nathan was the way he showed he could win, in a whole lot of different scenarios," Vaughters added to Cyclingnews. "He was winning races in time trials, on climbs. He was impressive in crits and often competed for time bonuses if he needed them. He's a wily bike rider, and that's something you can't teach. It's exciting to welcome a guy like Nathan who already knows how to win to the team."
The Von Hoff express links up with Chipotle-Sugarlabs
While Haas will go directly to the WorldTour team, both Allan Peiper and Andrew Christie-Johnson made the decision to 'blood' Von Hoff in the development team. The rationale according to Christie-Johnson, is because the 23-year-old, though older, is a little behind Haas in his overall development as a rider.
A winner of an incredible 18 races in 2011, along with taking the prestigious Scody Cup, Von Hoff has been a sprinting sensation. With the attention Von Hoff was earning with his wins, it was the sprinter and not Haas, who was approached by the team first.
"We first approached Steele in August, long before we'd even begun talking to Nathan."
"Chan McRae [Development squad director] had been following [Von Hoff] for quite a while, and Allan sort of presented the idea that maybe he was still a bit 'green' and could use some time in the development squad," said Vaughters. "He could use another year of harder racing, in Europe and the US, so we thought that would be the best option and we went through with it."
"The expectation next year is for him to show himself in some bigger races, bigger fields. We want to see how he functions in some say 2.2 level races. After that we'll be trying to bring him on the WorldTour team."
Von Hoff meanwhile said he was excited to continue to build on his 2011 season with some higher level racing with Chipotle.
"I'm really happy to be part of the Chipotle development team," said Von Hoff. "It's a really good opportunity for me to step up. Hopefully I'll be introduced to the Pro team and things will kick on from there. It'll give me an extra year to develop and learn which can only be good.
"I think the results we've been able to achieve at Sun Tour and the Japan Cup, show that there isn't a hollow in the National Road Series, it's a strong level of competition. I still need to show I can compete over longer distances, which will be what next year will be about, but I'm looking forward to that challenge."
Garmin-Cervélo intend to announce their full team at an official launch on November 17.