It felt like I was just getting over my New Year's Eve hangover, and now suddenly we at Drapac Cycling are already six races into the new season, and on the eve of our most important race on the calendar, the Santos Tour Down Under.
Either things come around quickly in Australia, or the recovery time for my hangovers is getting much worse. Either way it's an extremely busy and exciting time to be working for an Australian professional team.
While most of the international riders who'll be at the TDU have been posting endless selfies on Glenelg beach for a week now, we – along with the majority of the Australian professional peloton were taking part in the Australian National Road Titles.
Traditionally, Australian riders have always been the strongest in their home race – last year Australian riders won all but one stage (I'm claiming Wippert, obviously). I won't bore you with the reasons as to why a more motivated and acclimatised group of riders perform better at home, but the interesting part of the early pre-TDU races is that you do get a good glimpse of who will likely be the most competitive out of a very competitive bunch next week.
Sunday's national road race has been run on the same course since what seems like time immemorial, and the undulating course provides little place for riders with poor form to hide. This year's heat meant sure that any rider who made any effort at all until the final three laps (Jack aside) ended up toast.
Bobridge was of course simply so good and given so much leeway that there was only really a race for second, but in that scrap there was a good deal to see, and it was the perfect opportunity to see what our own riders had before they head to the first international races of the year.
Selection for the Tour Down Under is probably one of the hardest tasks that we are faced with each year, not only are 99 per cent of our riders heavily emotionally invested in their home race, but we also have to make the selection long before we have seen a rider turn a pedal in anger, and this year we had to wait up until very late on Sunday night to make that final call.
It'll be Drapac Professional Cycling's third participation in the Tour Down Under, and the team's success there has been varied. In 2014 Will Clarke was the race's most aggressive rider, and the team put two in the top 20 on GC and in 2015 we won the final stage with Wippert. In the first year the team simply looked at the strongest seven guys, and last year we dedicated the entire team to a sprint oriented goal.
In 2016 things have changed again. We will again be taking a strong sprinter in Brenton Jones, who is starting to come of age this season, but we will also be looking at taking a much stronger climbing team than we have in the past, with Lachlan Norris, Gavin Mannion and Sam Spokes (7th on Sunday) all well suited to this year's tougher than usual Down Under course.
As I've probably mentioned, it's not easy getting so much so right at this stage of the year, but with just days to the start, I am finally confident that we have what we need to find success once again at the TDU.
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