In 2016 Brenton Jones assumes the mantle as the top sprinter on Drapac's books party through the departure of Wouter Wippert to Cannondale and party through his swift progression in just one season with the Australian Pro-Continental squad. Speaking to Cyclingnews from the team's training camp in Bright, Victoria, Jones' self confidence is almost that of a boxer at weigh in. There is no bravado from the 25-year-old but simply a strong self belief that has been fostered by a broad support base, encouraging teammates and a sports director backing his talent.
"I think it's definitely exploded the confidence maybe more than what it had been for some of the races this year," Jones told Cyclingnews of his Tour of Hainan victory. "It's definitely nice to get a win and a 2.HC one which is the biggest of my career so to have finished on a high is going to make a difference leading up to our first big races in January and even now in training. You know if you do the hard work and do what you've always done you can get a result like that and keep stepping up like I have done. It's great for me and great for the team."
Jones kicks off his 2016 season at the four-day Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, his first start since winning the 2014 edition and will be looking to begin his season just as he finished with a visit to the top step of the podium. Following the Geelong based racing, a return to the Australian national championships in Ballarat follows with the aim of claiming a green and gold jersey before a WorldTour debut at the Tour Down Under on January 19 in Adelaide where he aims to convert confidence into stage winning celebrations.
"The first few months have been planned out so we have a bit of an idea of where we will be going," he said of his race programme. "After that there are a few races we're waiting on invites for but I am confident next season will be quite different from previous races and a lot more races we haven't participated in before. The first few months are obviously in Australia with Bay Crits and nationals and I'll get a start at Tour Down Under which is going to be fantastic and I've always dreamed of racing it. From there we are going to Qatar and Oman."
In 2015 Jones started his season with the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, spectacularly crashing out on stage 3 having touched wheels in the sprint finish, then heading to races in Italy, Turkey, Azerbaïdjan and Japan where he claimed victory in the prologue of the national tour. Then it was off to America, Great Britain, UAE and finally China. In 2016, Jones' and Drapac's programme will predominately feature European races for the first time in the team's history.
"Besides the win obviously, I think my results in Japan were quite consistent and that was a since step for me there," he said of his season overall and highlights. "That was a tour in which I rode well and was consistent with the results. Although I didn't get a result out of it, another one was RideLondon. I think the performance to finish in the front group with [Mark] Cavendish and a few other top sprinters, yes we missed the final move, but coming into that race with little preparation we came in kind of cold turkey and to a get strong performance as a first year pro is a confidence boost for future years when you race it again."
Racing in the National Road Series (NRS) and in Asia with Avanti, Jones was accustomed to finishing on the podium in any given sprint finish. In 2015 with Drapac, Jones wasn't turning in such performances as would be expected but it was a season in which Jones acknowledges was a steep learning curve but one is he content with considering his two UCI victories.
"As a sprinter and as a lead rider you are always going to want more wins or look for more wins but I think in reality, it was my first year as a neo-pro and I wonder how many neo-pro's finish their first season with a stage win at a 2.HC race," he reflected. "It would be interesting to see the numbers, there are certainly a few talents out there like your [Caleb] Ewan's and a few guys who are ridiculously talented but for me to finish on a high and get a stage win and a few really good podiums as well, I think the team can look back and say it was a successful season."
With Wippert moving up the ranks to WorldTour, Jones is top dog when it comes to sprint finishes for Drapac in 2016 and while some riders might baulk as such responsibility in their second year, there's no beating around the bush when asked if he feels the pressure of his role within the team.
"There is pressure on every race and I think mentally I have been working on it a lot myself off the bike, as well and on the bike, practising my routine," he said confidently. "Yes, there will be a lot of pressure but that depends on how I handle that and how I go into races. That is going to determine the result we get as a team and I am pretty confident with the right head space and right team we can get the job done.
"In 2016 after a first season as a neo-pro I would call this season my experience and development season. Next year the team wants results and I do to. To be supported by a tremendous leadout which we have and go to races like the Tour of Turkey, where I am confident that if everything is working and comes together you can get a win. Results are what I am aiming for next year. There is always a nice number of wins you want to get in a season but whether it comes off or not is another thing. I think to aspire and try to strive for the number you've set or get the wins on the board is a start. I think once I get one then hopefully another couple will flow."
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