With the option on the table to take up a Continental license for 2017, Tom Petty decided on a one-year raincheck for his Mobius team to ensure long-term stability. Having put in place a new co-naming rights sponsor, recruited well and strengthened the base of the team, the timing is right for Petty and the Mobius-BridgeLane squad
"If we really pushed, we probably could have gone for a Continental license at the end of last season. We decided not to because we wanted to make sure that model and how we operate was going to be there for the long term," team manager Tom Petty told Cyclingnews, adding the addition of new sponsors such as BridgeLane and Maia Financial assisted in securing the necessary finances.
"We don't want to keep growing and then just change the face of the team. We like what we are doing and the junior development that we are a doing locally with clubs and school visits. There is so much to the team that I want to keep intact. I didn't think that being a Continental team in 2017 made these things achievable."
"If we had gone Continental in 2017, we didn't have a long-term plan or a long terms secondary sponsor to back the team financially. Now we do. We have that continued platform at Continental level for at least three years I hope."
In the 2016 National Road Series (NRS) seasons, its second year of operation, Mobius finished second overall to Isowhey Sports Swisswellness. This year, the team "had a really hard year" to finish third on the NRS table with Petty explaining he felt last years achievement was an easier accomplishment than 2016.
"I don't feel like we have taken a backward step at any point. We have just really had to continually lift our game to move forward," Petty reflected on the year. "We had a really hard year and we've benefitted from that in other areas not just having riders getting good results and accruing points. We had to be stronger as a team and that was probably our biggest weakness. How we rode as a unit."
As well as the team's NRS calendar, Petty also took his squad over to New Zealand for the NZ Cycling Classic, and America for the Tour of the Gila for international UCI racing experience. Several of his riders complimented the North American racing programme with races across Europe in Netherlands, Italy, and Belgium before the end of season NRS events. Looking at the team performances and results during the travels, Petty explained that it was only fair for the development of his riders to take out a Continental license from 2018.
"The reason why want to be a Continental team is because we believe we have the riders to be competitive at that level and quality of sponsors, from day one, to gradually build the team. The time is right and we want to go and race in Europe and go back to the USA and also be part of Australia cycling history and race races like the Herald Sun Tour," he said of his team which will be one of eight Australian Continental outfits in 2018.
"Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but Continental is not the end result for us. We want to keep the team growing beyond that one day. We don't just have aspirations to be just a Continental team for the remainder of the programmes life. We want to keep growing."
While Petty is in favour of one team with single aims and ambition, with a strong emphasis on youth and development from day one, he explained there will be a splitting of resources next season to ensure each rider can reach their potential.
"We are doing to run an Under-21 NRS team and have a couple of the Conti guys step in with those riders and be road captains for those races," he said of the racing plan. "The majority of the Conti roster will then race Conti races, but it is a hard one. I don't really believe in having two teams. We have one team, known as Mobius-BridgeLane, then riders within that team who will do Continental races and riders, under 21, who we feel have the ability within one to two years to get to Continental level."
For Petty, the move into Continental racing won't be a step into the unknown. While there is always a level of uncertainty regarding a guarantee of race starts for Continental teams, Petty is confident of fostering the relationships he's already created and that securing race starts won't be overly problematic from 2018.
"Ultimately you need to build a team that race organisers want to invite. We have to make a team that is hard not to invite rather than hoping race organisers want to invite us and send 100 emails to them and beg for invites," he said. "Race organisers have it very tough and if we can make their life easier, we will."
Having taken the time to craft his squad and added long-term sponsors, Petty is confident the team's upward trajectory will continue in 2018 with no drawbacks to the Continental lifestyle.
2018 mobius-BridgeLane team roster: Ethan Berends (Aus), Ben Carman (Aus), Jesse Coyle (Aus), Alistair Donohoe (Aus), Alex Evans (Aus), Brad Evans (NZL), Nick Kergozou (NZL), Peter Livingstone (Aus), Angus Lyons (Aus), Conor Murtagh (Aus), Dylan Newbery (Aus), Aden Reynolds (Aus), Ethan Batt (NZL), Connor Brown (NZL), Liam Edwards (Aus), Carne Groube (NZL), Ben Metcalfe (Aus), Liam Nolan (Aus) and Craig Wiggins (Aus).