Drapac Pro Cycling's 2014 Tour de Japan appearance started with a bang as Will Clarke posted the fastest time in the prologue. He was quickly followed by teammate and reigning U23 Australian national time trial champion Jordan Kerby as Drapac made it a one-two start to the UCI 2.1 event.
Teammate Wouter Wippert also threw his name into the mix with a win on stage two — his fifth win of the season, including two stage-wins at the New Zealand Cycle Classic, and win at the Tour de Taiwan and OCBC Singapore Criterium.
"So far the [Tour of Japan] is going great with our 1-2 in the prologue and the Wouter winning [on Tuesday]," Clarke told Cyclingnews. "We have some solid climbers in Jai Crawford and Adam Phelan so we will be looking good on the climbs from here on I think."
Drapac's return to Pro Continental status this year after spending a stint at that level in 2007, has been a test for the Australian-owned squad who has tallied 10 wins in five months of racing.
But with recent success from Wippert and Clarke in Japan, along with Clarke's stage win and former Australian national champion Darren Lapthorne's third-place podium at the Tour d'Azerbaïdjan earlier this month, the pendulum of success is certainly swinging Drapac's direction as of late.
"The last weeks we have been building a bit of confidence and momentum which is great," said Clarke. "We have had some very good team work in the last races and everyone has worked to help each other which has payed off. Off the bike we are all pretty relaxed and have a good laugh with each other."
Drapac's high performance director Keith Flory agrees with Clarke, a rider Flory says is an "incredible athlete will lots of growth and hunger."
"The team is growing with every race and the progress we made in the two European races really kicked on from our fantastic starts at Tour Down Under and [Australian] nationals," said Flory. "Sport is full of ebb's and flows and certainly a developing culture in the team has been at the cornerstone of these improved performances."
Flory attributes the riders' commitment to the team and one another, as one of the components to overall growth and while the prologue and first two stages were targeted in Japan, Drapac's intention is to win the general classification.
"For Japan, our intention is the GC," said Flory "We targeted the first two stages for sure, but they were actually one of our 'secondary' targets behind GC.
"For the rest of the season we'll continue to target the growth of the team, trying to get better at everything we do."
As for the other key Drapac riders racing Japan, Flory shared his thoughts with Cyclingnews.
"I was excited when I heard Jordan had signed for Drapac and I'm even more excited now, working with him day in day out," he said. "Wouter is still relatively young but he's shown he is a fantastic sprinter. [He has] a big future and I'm just glad we're not trying to beat him."