The team of Budget Forklifts is entering the opening round of the Australian National Road Series at the Woodside Tour de Perth without a definitive leader but that shouldn't fool rival teams into believing they arrive unprepared. A mix of training camps and smaller early season races was exactly how they prepared for the start of 2012 and they promptly went about taking out the first three tours at Mersey Valley, Toowoomba and North Western. The expectations for the first race of 2013 that begins on Rottnest Island are equally high, according to sports director Cameron Watt.
"We have pretty high expectations. We set the bar last year [at Mersey Valley Tour] and we are looking to match that again this year, for sure," Watt told Cyclingnews.
"It was a little bit the same at the first few rounds of the NRS last year where we were coming up against Genesys and Drapac who were coming off Asia Tour victories; stage wins and overall classifications. They came back for the start of the NRS but in the first [Mersey Valley] one we came 1-3-4 and at the next one [Toowoomba] we came 1-2 on GC and then [at North Western Tour] we took 1 and 4 on GC. So I don't see it as a negative that we haven't had the Asia tours to prepare for this," added Watt.
Last year it was the dominant and contrasting duo of Mark O'Brien and Luke Davison – who have moved to Team Raleigh and Drapac Professional Cycling respectively – who lifted the team into second spot in the NRS teams rankings but Watt is not dwelling on the loss to other teams.
"At the same point last year, although Mark O'Brien and Luke Davison were so dominant a lot of people forget that they had never had an overall NRS win before. We are sort of in the same boat where we might have another two like them pop out of our team," said Watt.
There's a squad more than capable of taking out the overall classification at Perth, according to the man who ensured that every rider on the squad competed in the time trial at the Australian Road Cycling Championships in January and the more recent Oceania Championships to ensure that none of his riders arrived in Perth without having at least completed one time trial in competition.
"We thought our best tactic for this race would be to have many options come Saturday's road race," Watt told Cyclingnews.
"That's why we had the entire team do the National's TT and Oceania's TT. We just wanted everyone coming to Perth having done at least one TT. So we could have six or seven of the eight doing a really good TT.
"Jack Anderson has come off second at Oceania Road Champs, Jake Kauffman who got fifth in the National's TT, Michael Cuppit who got second on GC at two tours [in 2012] and Grafton to Inverell, Marc Williams was third on GC at Mersey Valley last year so we have plenty of options."
The team complete reconnaissance of Saturday's third stage around the Perth Hills and while the 45-odd kilometre circuit is difficult the final ascent to the top of Zig Zag appears not to be decisive enough to enter the tour with one or two clear leaders, according to Watt. That decision will likely come after Friday's TT around Rottnest Island where the team has a number of strong contenders.
"The research I did on the Kalamunda stage, it's just not a true hill-top finish and it's not selective enough to go in with just one or two genuine leaders," Watt told Cyclingnews.
"It [Stage 3] finishes up the Zig Zag climb which isn't particularly steep but after they have completed three laps of the course, it might wear people down. It's very narrow, only one-lane wide and just switchback after switchback. It's about 4% so the bunch will be moving up it but the third time might provide a selection.
While teams like Huon Salmon-Genesys have already notched up some racing abroad, the way Watt has prepared the team means that he sees no downside to coming into Perth without a tour in his riders legs.
"We've had training camps for this along with Oceania's and smaller races in the lead-up. That's exactly how have prepared for the NRS last year. Not having done an Asia tour round before this is not going to hamper our chances."
Team Budget Forklifts for Tour de Perth: Jack Anderson (Qld), Michael Cupitt (ACT), Samuel Horgan (Nzl), Jacob Kauffmann (NSW), Shaun McCarthy (Vic), Marc Williams (ACT), Blair Windsor (NSW) and Alex Wohler (Qld).