New Zealand's Patrick Bevin earned himself a contract with the Avanti Racing Team through his performances in the two final stage races of the National Road Series (NRS). Bevin, who spent 2014 with health.com.au/Search2Retain, hit a purple patch of form in September as he won a stage and the overall at the National Capital Tour and backed it up with two stage wins and the overall at arguably the hardest race on the NRS calendar, the Tour of Tasmania, a race won in the past by both Cadel Evans (BMC) and Richie Porte (Team Sky).
The 23-year-old Bevin explained to Cyclingnews that despite interest from other teams, signing for Avanti was the "obvious choice" and one which will allow him to continue to his upward trajectory.
"In terms of my career, Avanti is the blatant choice to be honest," Bevin said. "In terms of me being the best bike rider that I can be, they have a great track record and have a good team and it's something that I want to be a part of. I've raced against it now and seen it and it's a pretty strong set up.
"Once we were talking seriously, it was pretty obvious that's where I was going to end up."
In May, Bevin rode the An Post Rás with the New Zealand national team, winning stages, wearing the overall leader's jersey and taking home the points classification. The Rás would prove to be a sign of things to come for Bevin who proved himself capable of winning in various scenarios and on challenging terrain in Ireland.
"The Rás is a tough tour and it was a surprise, especially taking the first stage solo with a decent margin, with just how good the form was," Bevin said of his expectation ahead of the race. "It was nice to kick off that campaign like that.
"It was actually really tough as we lost a couple of guys to illness, so we had three riders for most of that tour and in hindsight, it's not the way to win the Rás but it was what it was. It was a very good week for me and it was great to come out and really put some authority down at the race."
Bevin's next appointment on the road was in Australia with health.com.au/Search2Retain at the Tour of Gippsland where a broken wheel ruled him out of GC contention but freed him to prepare for two upcoming goals.
"Tasmania was the big one as it's quite well renowned in the NRS and it's probably the toughest tour, so there was an eye on that and an eye on Canberra too," Bevin said of focus on his return to the NRS.
"At the start of that campaign, I thought the time trial at Tasmania would count me out so there was a big eye on Canberra as it looked like it suited me on paper."
Bevin's blistering time trial win at the National Capital Tour over future teammate Joe Cooper, the 2013 New Zealand national time trial champion and 2014 NRS winner, set up the overall victory and was the start of Bevin's hot streak.
"That was a big confidence boost," Bevin said of the Canberra time trial win, "as he's had an authority on those for a while but it is bike racing. It's a time trial, it's very absolute and I had a very good day and set some power PB's, which you know when you can do them under those circumstances like that, you're in good form and the confidence definitely grew from there and continued."
Bevin returned the favour to his teammates for their work during the race as he led out Alistair Donohue to victory on the final day criterium.
"It was awesome, especially as Al had ridden all day so it was great to set him up," said Bevin who was second on the final stage. "It's pretty awesome as those guys rode their legs off all day for me and still had enough in the finish to take the win. It was a really great day for the team. You can't script that kind of stuff. Those are the sorts of days that you'll always remember fondly."
The National Capital Tour was also the start of three consecutive wins by health.com.au/search2retain and as Bevin explained, "It was a by-product of having guys committed to the cause. When those guys had ridden really well as a team all year, it just kind of fell into place and it's a testament to how well the team went in the second half of the year."
With his and the teams confidence up, Bevin then set about dominating the Tour of Tasmania which was again set up by a good opening day time trial.
"Prior to the tour I was looking to get up in one way or another," he said. "The dynamic changes a little bit when you're second on GC after the time trial and then it just became about picking up time where I could. I chipped away and chipped away and I picked up a couple of wins which were just the icing on the cake when the end of that week played out.
"To win the GC for sure would probably be my most satisfying win just because the way the tour played out. To get up Mt Wellington close enough to fight for the win was a great result in itself and then to be able to play that out over every stage, not missing a beat and then take time back on multiple stages was a very complete performance.
"You find those very satisfying. It didn't fall into my hands, I had to fight and take it on and that makes it more satisfying."
Bevin's ride up Mt Wellington was further confirmation of a rider embracing his all-round abilities and adding more strings to his bow.
"For me, it's been a matter of embracing being an all-rounder," Bevin said of his secret to success. "I know that earlier in my career, if you can call it that, I was more focused on sprinting. For me, it seems, it all kind of comes to together and it's hard to really pin point how that works, but between my coach and I, we work on being fitter and it snowballed to what happened at the end of the season.
"I was able to get up on any given day, which is a very motivating personally, and it's great for a team in any situation. It's been a matter of embracing that all round ability and using it as best I can," said Bevin who spent four seasons with Bissell in the USA.
Bevin's first outing in 2015 for Avanti will be the New Zealand nationals in early January where he will target both the road and time trial as he looks to pick up where he left off in 2014.
"I'll be targeting both events this year just keeping up with the all-round thing," he said. "I definitely want to step out and start 2015 really strongly. I was lucky the timing worked out well and I got a break to rebuild and really set myself up for next year and nationals is part of that.
"It's a big ask to target both but it works well the work ethic and training ethic so it's really motivating and it's a great target to have to set the season up."
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