On the eve of the opening National Road Series (NRS) race of 2014, Tour de Perth, team manager of Satalyst Giant Racing Team, Wayne Evans, spoke to Cyclingnews about the upcoming season, team targets and riders to watch.
This is the first in what will be a regular series of articles on NRS teams to feature on Cyclingnews.
Cyclingnews: How has your preparation been for the start of the 2014 NRS series?
We've just had a training camp on over the weekend which was about bringing the boys together and the task at hand and just fine tuning their training but really, all the hard work has been done, so I think we’re in reasonable shape. A lot of the guys did the [Australian] nationals and some of them did the Bay Crits [both in January] and the local racing over here in Western Australia has been pretty active and the team itself is composed of guys from all over Australia so we've had a series of approaches to get ready for the Tour de Perth.
We'll miss Michael Fitzgerald out of our line up, he's out with a sickness, other than that we should be able to battle on and be a big part of the bike race and certainly have a say in it.
CN: How do you decide on your team roster? What processes do you go through in recruiting riders?
The recruiting process for me starts throughout the year and by the end of September-October of last year, I'd pretty much nutted down most of my roster for this season and we're looking again for next year with up-and-coming juniors from Western Australia as well as guys on the eastern seaboard and keeping an eye on talent that's going to be available and keen to race as part of a NRS team.
In terms of how I select for the team itself, being the Tour de Perth, we have a WA sponsor and we are very mindful of trying to make our team heavily focused with WA riders for this round. Obviously, they're at a home state with a home crowd and home knowledge so we should utilise that best we can.
For us it’s a question of usually juggling finances a little bit with getting the best team on the paddock. I don’t have a massive budget to fly everybody everywhere, so I try to capture guys from each state that are going well and form a nucleus for that particular event so we don’t have to keep paying for airfares to fly people into different scenarios.
For the Tour de Perth team, all the guys bar Pat Shaw are from WA so that should be a good outcome for our sponsors and our ability to put a competitive team on the paddock. I don't think we’ll be compromised on that side of things too much at the moment.
CN: What is different about the team this year, compared to last?
We've got the best amount of budget we've ever had, we've had great support from our equipment sponsors and cash sponsors, so we've been able to take on Pat Shaw in a paid capacity this year, and I'm very excited to have Pat. In my opinion, he is the best domestic based leader of the Australian boys, he comes with a great leadership capability and great experience to back that up. He understands the guys in the other teams and their strengths and weaknesses, so he understands that dynamic of who we're racing against. He's raced all the top races and knows all the courses pretty much like the back of his hand and he's good at mentoring our young guys so he's a tremendous value add to our team.
We've got Alex McGregor and I expect big things from Alex this year. Greg Henderson from Lotto Belisol is a friend of mine and he contacted me in October and said 'look mate, you've got to get this kid in your team, he's a real weapon, needs a bit of lifeline though.' I looked at Alex and he's shown me that he has the weaponry to play with.
We have some young kids coming through like Matty Jackson and Sam Wellsford, and both Michael Fitzgerald and Jonathan Bolton are solid performers while Theo Yates is moving up the chain and is showing me that he can win this year.
I think what's changed for us this year, is that we've seen our talent come of age a little bit and a couple of key additions to the roster to give experience and strength.
CN: What is your racing calendar for 2014?
All the NRS races and a handful of the Asian tours as well. We did the Tour of Wellington and we'll do Southland at the end of the year and more local stuff like that in the region.
CN: What are your thoughts on the NRS calendar in terms of its length and location?
I don't see any issue with the calendar. The WorldTour starts in January with the Tour Down Under, goes through to the Spring Classics and all the way to the Worlds and finishes up in October at Beijing. To me, that's an achievable time frame and replicates what the guys need to do if they're going to go and be professional cyclists at a higher level.
I think that the NRS racing actually needs to be a little bit longer. We really need to get some of the stages a little bit longer to give it a bit more teeth for teams around the world to see the value and performances in the NRS athletes.
It's a bit of a juggling act, they have to try to keep the racing to a distance that allows U19 riders to take part, but I also think we should be showcasing the cream of Australia's talent in some longer stages and really give increased value to performances of those riders looking to secure contracts at a higher level.
CN: What are your expectations of the team for the 2014 season?
In 2014, I would expect us to finish top-five on the NRS [team] rankings. In our previous four years we've finished fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth and for us, we see ourselves as one of the better teams in Australia; we're well organised, we have a good reputation, we attend all of the races and have a consistent approach in that regard but now we just want to get a bit more consistency in terms of getting onto the podium and stand up there with our hands in the air.
I would hope for us to win a few more races, we've set a target of four races this year that we'd like to win. I think if we can finish in the top five teams of the year, including [Pro-Continental outfit] Drapac in that lot, we've done well. Avanti's a big team with lots of firepower and an increased budget, so is Budget and Drapac is a marvellous team. Then you have us and Search2Retain, African Wildlife Safaris; and we all fit into that dynamic.
CN: Is there a particular race the team is targeting this year? Why?
Obviously Tour de Perth is a race we're targeting. For us, it's an important race in our home state with our sponsors and supporters cheering us on. So for us, we'd really like to contend overall and I think we're capable of putting a rider into the top-five in GC.
To say that we would like to win it is an obvious statement and are capable with a bit of luck, but I think it's more realistic to say if we finish on the podium, we've done very well against some very good talent and strong teams.
Races that I think we can win? Stage wins in Murray River, [Tour of] Gippsland and Tour of Canberra and Tassie [Tour of Tasmania]; I think we're capable of a stage win there. Adelaide [Tour] last year we ran fourth and I think we're capable of a stage win there, so I think we have enough good bike riders with different strengths to give us options in the overall.
Realistically, there aren't too many races we can't be competitive in but, to try to win is a difficult task considering the quality of the opposition we are racing against. But we think we've got a chance, so we will aim high and see where we go.
CN: What is the hardest race on the NRS calendar?
The hardest race would be Tour of Tassie. It's often very brutal due to the elements; the weather and such is testing, the parcours is testing, the demand on the teams at that point in time at the end of the year when dealing with athletes who are tired or carrying injuries. That is very difficult race on the calendar and in my opinion, quite arduous.
CN: Do you expect there to be a stand-out rider this season?
I do, there are a number of guys who are capable of stepping up to the WorldTour but, with all things being equal, there are a bunch guys like Travis Meyer and Wes Sulzberger, Jono Cantwell and Will Clarke who have been already at the WorldTour level and are now with Drapac, so they're capable of having a good season and getting back up there again.
I manage Travis and Wes as a professional rider agent and I think that those guys could look to get back up to that top echelon. Ultimately, those guys lost their rides because the dynamic of the WorldTour was less than favourable.
There were that many teams closing their doors, last year there was a very good buyers' market and the guys on the 'peripheral zone' if you like, missed out because they didn't have points or guys were selling themselves for next for nothing to get a ride.
Then there is the emerging talent of Jack Haig and guys like that who I think are capable of continuing their progression up the ranks. It really relies on a bit of luck sometimes, somebody in the team may think you're the rider they are looking for and believe in you.
I think that if we are fair, there are probably about six-to-eight guys in the NRS who could get a change to ride at WorldTour level and would be capable of standing up to the scrutiny but it's just getting that opportunity, not whether they are good enough to get the opportunity but just getting a foot in the door.
CN: Who are your main equipment sponsors?
Our main equipment sponsors are Giant and obviously they are wonderful in the support of our team. They give us a tremendous amount of bikes and value add support in marketing, providing vehicles and opportunities to showcase our team. Seight, they provide all our awesome clothing. Bell Helmets are on-board, as are Torq Nutrition, Bont shoes, Tifosi sunglasses, Premax products for all our chamois creams and sunscreen.
We are really quite fortunate that we have people who believe in our team and what we stand for, so we have quite a lot of good equipment suppliers in that lot.
The 2014 Satalyst Giant Racing Team: Patrick Shaw (VIC), Alex Malone (NSW), Aaron Slavik (NSW), Alex Smyth (VIC), Geoff Straub (VIC), Jackson Mawby (WA), Joel Strachan (WA), Jonathon Bolton (VIC), Kane Walker (WA), Liam Dove (VIC), Matthew Jackson (WA), Matthew Marshall (WA), Michael Fitzgerald (QLD), Mitch Cooper (WA), Sam Welsford (WA) and Theodore Yates (WA).
Development riders: Brendon Meney (WA), Tim Seller (WA), Brad Hall (WA), Matt Burton (WA) and Andrew Williams (WA).