Von Hoff kick starts NFTO career with national criterium defence
Australian chasing Tour Down Under place with eye on WorldTour return
After winning back-to-back Australian national criterium titles, ahead of Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge), Steele von Hoff was quick to state that he isn't finished with the championships just yet. Von Hoff is hoping that another impressive ride in the men's 183km road race on Sunday will see him selected for the Tour Down Under wildcard team, UniSA.
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Von Hoff ready to take on the WorldTour sprinters at the Tour Down Under
The former Garmin-Sharp rider signed for the British Continental NFTO team for 2015 with the aim of returning to the WorldTour next season.
"I want to have a good road race because I want to make the Tour Down Under team so if I don't have a good day on Sunday, my season is pretty much done until March eight which is the date of my first race in Europe," von Hoff told reporters after his win.
Selection for the only Australian WorldTour race of the season could instead see von Hoff suddenly have a very packed summer of racing.
"If I have a good road race, I can potentially do Tour Down Under, Herald Sun Tour and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, so that's the goal to try and climb over the hill and show my capabilities and see how I go. I don't know my fitness is on the climbs at the moment because I was sick two weeks before Christmas," he said.
Von Hoff is hoping to replicate Adam Blythe's 2014 season with the NFTO team. The former BMC rider return to the top ranks of the sport with Orica-GreenEdge after a successful 2014 and victory in the Prudential RideLondon Classic. Claiming the national criterium title gave von Hoff a perfect start to his campaign.
"I want to get back up into the WorldTour. That's my goal. I want to be racing Grand Tours and I want to give it a go in the big races. Now that I am wearing the crit jersey, hopefully my team will get some better starts because it's a very heavy crit scene over in the UK which is very similar to Australia. I know from looking at their roster that they rode 16 criteriums to be able to represent the team over there will be fantastic."
With the race favouring climbers over sprinters, von Hoff knows that he needs a good performance to gain selection for the Tour Down Under which would drastically change the narrative of his year. When asked which would be a bigger accomplishment, the criterium win or Tour Down Under selection, von Hoff responded: "I wouldn't say more important because this is a national title and it's an amazing feeling to get this and now I can take the jersey over to Europe and represent Australia in every criterium race that I do which is going to be very frequently this year," he said.
"It's probably on par though and I am nervous for Sunday because I have to do a good race or otherwise I'll miss out on doing what would be my only WorldTour race of 2015. I really have to try to show myself to get a spot on the UniSA team. It's up to the selectors and if I have a bad day, I have a bad day and there isn't much I can do about that but I'll definitely come out swinging and try my hardest."
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By Josh Croxton