With his move to JLT Condor confirmed, Brenton Jones has turned his attention to making an immediate impact with the British Continental squad at the three-day Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic from January 1.
"That will be the first goal and they have already approached me with their goals and wanting to hit the ground running as well so I think that will be a good first race," Jones told Cyclingnews of the criterium series that he won overall in 2014.
Having spent the last two seasons with Drapac at Pro-Continental level, Jones won stages at the Tours of Japan, Korea, and Hainan and was a regular top-ten finisher at the stage races he started. In 2016, his results became more consistent with his two stage wins and the points classification at the Tour of Korea a season highlight.
While the 24-year-old explained he would have "loved" to have remained at the Pro-Continental level in 2017, he is quick to state that he believes JLT Condor's race programme will provide him with ample opportunity and is looking forward to the challenge.
"John Herety was definitely very supportive in my decision to decide, and yes I was speaking to a lot of teams, and I've definitely appreciated his patience in trying to find something," he said in reference to the team manager and search for a team. "He is definitely more than happy to take me under his wing and give me a great year, which I know I will have, but he was hoping that I would find something else. It's not a fall-back, everything happens for a reason so it will be an opportunity and it is something I am looking forward to with the team. With John and Tom [Southam], I have known then for several years and I have raced against the team for several years so it is something I can fit into and be comfortable."
Herety and his JLT Condor team are regulars down under over the Australian summer, racing the Bay Crits, Herald Sun Tour and more recently, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. With the Cadel Evans race becoming a WorldTour event, the Continental licensed team won't be returning in 2017 but will be lining up for the Herald Sun Tour.
"The team will come and do Bay Crits and Sun Tour so I will be looking forward to the Sun Tour and John has already expressed his interest in having me there and being a sprinter there to try and target some stages and help the GC boys out," Jones said of the race he last rode in 2015.
Jones, who is also looking to claim a maiden Australian national criterium title on Wednesday, January 4, will then look to racing on JLT Condor's home soil as he aims for starts at the Tour of Britain and Tour de Yorkshire.
End of an era with Drapac
At the Tour of Hainan last month, Jones was one of seven riders to represent Drapac in its final race. Although he was unable to repeat his stage win from last year, Jones explained he still experienced good sensations.
"I think everyone had mixed emotions really. Happy to be part of the team's final race but also sad that it is coming to an end and it is your last race not only with your teammates but with the staff, and in the colours," he said.
"In terms of what my feelings were, I have had a great opportunity with Drapac the last two seasons so to finish on reasonable terms and get some consistent results, not maybe something I was hoping for, but to finish with the guys and be positive that you've given it a good crack and everyone in the team went down fighting was the main thing to take away from that."
The race brought to an end his two-year stint with the Australian team, with Jones expressing his gratitude for the opportunity that has made him a better cyclist.
"There have been a number of races, not only this year but last year as well that I have definitely had the opportunity to experience a number of climates, racing styles, terrain..." he said. "I haven't been pigeonholed into one type of rider and I've been able to play a number of different roles in the team. The hard races, like when you go down to France and race the Tour du Limousin, races that you ask anyone in Europe and they'll say are the toughest in Europe. So to experience those races only makes you stronger for the rest of the season and year, and your career."
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