Drapac Professional Cycling begin the Tour of the Great South Coast today with an eye firmly to the future while also paying tribute to their former teammate, Robbie Williams, who died tragically on Tuesday morning.
The team will sport black arm bands in memory of Williams.
"It is an incredibly sad day that is not only felt by his friends, family and Drapac Professional Cycling but also the wider cycling community as we have all lost a great friend," said team manager Jonathan Breekveldt. "Michael Drapac was particularly upset when told the news and we send our condolences and best regards to his family."
New signings Robbie Hucker, formerly of Team Torq / Bicycle Superstore and Johnnie Walker, formerly of RBS Morgans-ATS will both line up in Portland for Drapac on Wednesday. Gordon McCauley, five-time New Zealand road champion will compete for the team this week as a guest rider and should prove especially useful in the tough conditions expected during the five-day tour.
Hucker, current Australian under 23 Mountain Bike Champion is concentrating on the road in 2012.
"He is a rising talent in Australian cycling and for somebody so new to the road has a great understanding of racing and has already impressed in the early National Road Series [NRS] events this year," said Breekveldt.
Walker's move will also see him race alongside his brother, Will, current leader of the NRS.
"John is a world class rider and has competed at the highest level the sport has to offer," said Breekveldt. "He is a natural fit for the team and DPC fully support not only his cycling but his decision to enrol in a full-time university course."
Drapac's sport director, Agostino Giramondo explained that while the team would like to maintain Will Walker's series lead, the priority is to win the Tour of the Great South Coast and also stage victories.
"This tour is better suited to the likes of [Darren] Lapthorne and [Lachlan] Norris especially with Will holding the NRS leaders jersey making him a marked man" he said.
Will Walker said that while he has enjoyed rapid success so far, he is still in the "early stages" of building his condition.
"I didn't expect to start with such a great result, it really goes to show when there are good people behind you [Michael Drapac and Drapac Professional Cycling] it makes the world of difference. I hope to continue building so I can put in a great showing at the nationals in January," he said.
"I'm getting stronger and I know I'll become stronger than when I was in Rabobank. Mainly because I'm not suffering from health problems like in the past. I can't thank Drapac enough for supporting me and getting my general health back to 100 per cent. That is obviously the most important thing in life, now after being through many tough years I am at a great mental state which is certainly more powerful than strong legs.