Two amateur riders join Katusha-Alpecin for Bay Crits

The two amateur riders who will guest-ride for Katusha-Alpecin at the upcoming Lexus Blackburn Bay Crits near Melbourne, Australia, in early January have been announced by Katusha pro Nathan Haas.

Tom Chapman from South Australia and Dylan McKenna of Victoria were the lucky winners of a competition launched by the WorldTour team in mid-December, with Haas announcing their names on sports radio station 1116 SEN on Christmas Eve.

The pair will now be able to choose which of the three Bay Crits races – in Geelong on January 1 and 2, and in Williamstown on January 3 – they wish to participate in, joining their Katusha teammates Haas, Alex Dowsett and Marco Haller.

"We had over 100 entries, so we were a little bit overwhelmed by it, and we couldn't pick just one winner," Haas told 1116 SEN. "So in the end we actually spoke to the Bay Crits organiser, John Trevorrow, and he gave us permission to actually have two riders, which we're super excited about."

After announcing McKenna and Chapman, Haas gave some insight into how the two riders were chosen. The conditions of entry were that riders had to already be 'A grade' – elite – riders, but not professionals.

"What we particularly liked about Dylan is that he's a younger rider, and I think just out of the under-19 category, so this is his first chance to race with the big guys," explained Haas.

"Tom is, I think, 23 or 24, so he's a bit older, but he's a cyclo-cross rider," Haas continued. "I've heard that his skills are second to none, and he also comes from a motorbike background, so his ability to corner in these criteriums is going to be pretty fun to just be around, and maybe he can teach us WorldTour professionals a thing or two."

While both men's WorldTour team Dimension Data and women's team Canyon-SRAM and have used competitions on virtual racing and training app Zwift to 'talent spot' riders in the past couple of years – with Leah Thorvilson winning a contract with Canyon-SRAM in 2016, Tanja Erath doing the same in 2017, and Ollie Jones earning a contract with Dimension Data's under-23 development team last year – Haas believes that this is the first time that a WorldTour team has given riders the opportunity to race with them to gain some experience.

"I mean, it's a very elite level that we're at," he said. "It really gives us the opportunity to welcome somebody in, and reach out and sort of give back to the local community of cycling, and also maybe just let these younger guys know that while the level's definitely high, it's not out of reach, and we're just normal bike riders as well, who love riding our bikes, so for us it's a great opportunity.

"We've also been able to see on [online training programme] Strava that these two guys are in pretty good shape, so we know they're going to be good at racing," said Haas. "And it's up to them: they can come in for one, two or all three of the crits. They're also preparing for the National Championships [in nearby Ballarat, January 4-8], so if racing all three doesn't suit them, they can opt in or out."

The five-man Katusha team for the Bay Crits will race in special Katusha Sports jerseys that Haas had a hand in designing, inspired by the colourful floor tiles seen around where Haas lives in Spain during the European summer.

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