Ben Hill capped off a solid debut for Jayco-2XU at the Geelong Tour by winning the toughest stage of the National Road Series event, the tough 143 kilometre fifth stage which also doubled as the Victorian Open Road Championship.
Canberra-based Hill joined Jayco-2XU for the Geelong Tour haven ridden the earlier part of the season with the Suzuki Trek outfit. It was a move that Suzuki-Trek team manager John Forrest knew was in Hill's best interest, and so gave the 21-year old his blessing.
"We're going to continue to help develop Ben with John Forrest from Suzuki Trek, explained Jayco-2XU director sportif Pat Jonker. "He's been with Suzuki all year, he comes with us and wins a big race so Suzuki has to take credit as well and it's now our job to develop him all the way to a standard where he can be in the national team – that's pretty much my job now. If he's not in the national team by July next year, then I haven't done my job."
Hill was just as impressed with his new team:
"They're just very professional," he surmised. "They do all the little things right – they get us prepared both physically and mentally before the race. Pat Jonker's excellent. He gave me so many tips during the race – when to do what and it just helped a lot."
As with most stages in the NRS, Saturday's began with attacks off the front but the "tough man's course" as Jonker described it would gradually result in 60 riders not making it to the finish, such was the pace over the demandingly hills parcours. Hill, with teammates Glenn O'Shea, Nick Dougall and Mark Jamieson rode a smart race, staying safely in the lead group which was eventually whittled down to 25 riders, the Canberran only showing his hand on the final KOM of the day where he claimed two points for being third across the line.
Hill revealed that the plan had been to set up the win for O'Shea, but with the pace still hot coming into the finale, he was forced to react.
"I originally was trying to lead out Glenn O'Shea and I kicked early from the corner and just expected him to come around me but he didn't have the legs so just kept going with it," he told Cyclingnews before giving credit to his new teammates.
"I'd had a lot of second places in a few of the other NRS races and it was good just to have strong teammates up the front to help me get over the line."
Hill had already managed to upset the dominance of Genesys danger men, Steele Von Hoff and Nathan Haas on the Tour's second stage, splitting the pair to finish second.
"I think you've just got to be pretty aggressive and just try and catch them off guard I guess," Hill said of the Orange train. Haas went on to win his fourth NRS event of the season and his second straight Scody Cup event having won last up at the Tour of Gippsland.
Jonker said that Hill's recruitment bring his team, which is in its first season, one step closer to the right formula and closer again to beating Genesys on a consistent basis.
"Riders in this team come and go and we're still looking for the right mix. I think with people like Ben Hill, Nick Dougall and Mark Jamieson we have a core group that will move forward in a really positive direction," he explained. "We're not near the level of Genesys but give us a little bit more time. If we have a look at how many seconds and thirds we've had this year and to be honest, Nathan and Steele – these guys are really world class. They're amazing bike riders that will soon be professional I would say. For us to win a 140km road race, that victory is especially special."
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