Mitchell Lovelock-Fay capped off his first year with the Avanti Racing Team with a historic win at the Tour of Southland in November and is looking build on that success in 2015 with the overall NRS title his number one goal.
The 22-year-old became the first Australian to win the race in over 50 years, which was a boost to his team which will race under a New Zealand Continental licence from next year in order to attract the sponsors it needs to step up to the Pro-Continental level.
"It think it was good win for me," Lovelock-Fay told Cyclingnews of his success. "To have the team put the support behind me was pretty unreal considering that I had shown throughout the year that I could ride up there but I hadn't shown I could win any races, so for them to support me and ride at the front all week was surreal. To get the win in the last race of the year and put mind in a good state for the 2015 season was what I was after. I am super motivated and hopefully we can all have a good year together."
With overall victory at the 2012 Tour of Thailand and the best young rider's jersey at the 2013 Tour du Maroc, Lovelock-Fay has shown his characteristics suit stage racing. On the eve of the Tour of Southland, Avanti had three designated leaders but it was Lovelock-Fay who emerged the strongest to add another win to his palmarès and continue his progression as a GC rider.
"We didn't really have a set leader for Tour of Southland," he said. "We went in there with Taylor Gunman, Joe Cooper and myself as the GC riders being such a long race. Having three options is what we wanted but after the first road stage, Taylor wasn't feeling so great and he lost a bit of time. After that it was down to Joe and myself realistically with Neil van der Ploeg up there as a wildcard. After the Mt Bluff stage, I knew I had good legs as I finished third on the day and from there I switched my mindset to winning the tour.
"It was nice to go into the tour knowing that I was riding well all year and still improving and getting fitter so it was really nice to know that I could step up that next level.
"I think overall tour rider is what I'd like to be and what I am good at," he said of what kind of rider he is. "I can time trial and I can climb a hill fairly well. I think that's what I am targeting but I need to get some more time trailing under my belt to keep up with the likes of Joe Cooper of Paddy Bevin. That something I need to improve on but I know I have the hill climbing ability to be able to win tours."
Lovelock-Fay spent the 2013 season with the Christina Watches-Onfone team alongside compatriot Jordan Kerby but it was far removed from the good times the duo experienced when they won the 2010 junior team pursuit World title together.
"2013 was a difficult year," he reflected. "I lived in Europe and struggled with the lifestyle. The team wasn't great in supporting me. We didn't really have much support in Italy where we were living, and they were all living in Denmark, so trying to find all the training routes on my own was pretty difficult and just surviving on my own without any support was difficult."
The exertion of adapting to European lifestyle had Lovelock-Fay questioning whether he wanted to be a professional bike rider.
"I had a bit of time at the end of 2013 were I was really considering hanging up the bike and going to find a job or study," he said. "My parents and my family were pushing me to stick it out for one more year so I started training and I was getting that motivation back again. The first race with the new team was at nationals in January and we worked really well together and that lifted my motivation.
"Coming back to Australia to racing with Avanti was quite a change to be honest, because they are such a tight knit team and everyone supports each other. It's like a dream team really, you don't really want to leave the team if you're offered a professional contract just because you know how good it is."
Having the support of team manager Andrew Christie-Johnson has also been a boost for Lovelock-Fay who believes the team is the perfect launching pad for his career.
"Andrew is really good at putting faith in you and motivating you, so you can see why a lot of riders go professional from this team," he said.
Although he will ride the time trial at the national championships, Lovelock-Fay's early-January revolves around posting a good result in the men's road race. His first in the elite ranks.
"I set myself a few goals for next year. Realistically I'd like to get a top-ten at nationals, I'd like to say top three but with all the professionals there, it's unrealistic to do that first year out of U23's," he said. "So [my aim is] to go top-ten and secure myself a position on the UniSA Tour Down Under team. That's my target for the nationals and I know that I won't go the Tour Down Under as a lead rider if I get selected, but to be able to support someone and race in a WorldTour event would be amazing.
"I've targeted Tour Down Under for the last three years but I've been struck down with illness and injury before nationals but this year I put all my eggs in the road race basket and to get a good result and to make the UniSA team would be a dream come true."
After January, Lovelock-Fay's ambitions for 2015 are clear and simple, "For next year, the overall NRS title is my main target.
"No less than winning the NRS really and making the UniSA team," he added of what a success season would look like. "I know that I have the ability and I know that Cycling Australia know that I have the ability so to make the UniSA team would be a good start to the year. Realistically, winning the overall NRS, which is still going to be difficult, would be a good year for me."
With Avanti having claimed the overall NRS team prize for the last five years and the individual prize for the last two, Lovelock-Fay will be in the perfect environment to attain his goal of securing a WorldTour contract for 2016.
"I can see that Andrew has put a lot of faith in me this year and I think I've proven myself to be a competitive rider this year. If I can just make that next step and start winning races in 2015, then I think Andrew would definitely want me to make that next step and look after me with the WorldTour teams."