The journey to the Jayco Herald Sun Tour
The Jayco Herald Sun Tour is the pinnacle race for domestic Continental affiliated Racing Teams. When we secured Continental status in October, our ambitions focused squarely on this historic stage race. This year we faced the sternest test yet with long stages and mountain top finishes to contend with. To realise the step the team had to take this week both mentally and physically, it's probably useful to understand where the journey started and why the race tactics, outcomes and objectives have changed so much, but also, why we expect so much.
When the Cobra9 Racing team formed in 2009, and I use the term loosely, as 2 brothers riding B Grade hardly constitutes a team, we had very low expectations on our performances. Essentially, we had a newly formed Cycling Orthotic company, and we wanted to wear our brand when we raced. The first kit was basic, the extent of our racing was minimal and our results were far from encouraging. That said, we had a pretty good time, met some great people and commenced the formation of a community and team from these early interactions. Team mates were 'mates' and sponsors were close contacts formed through these immediate connections.
Over a short period of time, the group swelled and the racing level improved in conjunction with the intrinsic drive a tight knitted group can generate. A Grade became the standard amphitheatre of our racing endeavours and the quality of riders within our ranks improved as the average age trended down.
The team battled on, improved year on year and gained a gradual respect from the local Brisbane Cycling Community. This attitude shift from the general cycling scene has always been difficult for me to accept. My mindset around our racing team has always been one of battlers having a go, a far cry from the more professional image we now project.
Over the last few years, the changes have been more impressive. A huge increase in our community, the emergence of The Pedaler Squad and the additions of World Champions and Elite riders from all around Oceania have shifted the profile of the team and essentially created a new entity, The Brisbane Continental Cycling Team. The outcomes for our team have been hugely impressive. However, when I climbed into the team car for Stage 1 on the 2018 Herald Sun Tour, a small part of me remained attached to that lingering doubt and associated set of conservative expectations that comes with where this team emerged from. Will the lads hang in there, can we achieve in this level of the sport? After 10 minutes of racing and Ollie jumping into the first break away of the tour, these doubts were emphatically crushed, and I don't expect them to return in a hurry. That said, you only get to enjoy those sentiments once in any journey, and thankfully there was time within the rush of this race to appreciate the change and then move on to the business of 'getting it done'.
The antics and results of this tour are now widely appreciated. Live coverage of stage 4 and the highlight packages from each day clearly indicate the extent to which the guys immersed themselves in the racing. At team meetings each night, detailed race tactics where laid out, and on each day, the team performed exactly as planned. Every break we wanted to be in, we were in, every possible hiccup was identified and then overcome on race day. On occasion, the day's result wasn't quite to the lofty expectations of the riders, but on a whole, the outcomes for us in this tour were spectacular. And to be honest, they needed to be.
At the completion of this tour, the racing calendar in Australia takes a healthy breather. The next race block for the guys comes at Oceanias in March. That said, it is a crucial period of racing as the UCI points on offer will go a long way to securing more races and invites for our fledgling team over the coming year. The sport of cycling is notoriously unforgiving on new thrifty entities. You have to prove yourself to get the wiggle room to create a successful succession plan and ensure productive and secure race programs for your riders and sponsors.
We are now in the phase of early consolidation. We have demonstrated the caliber of our squad. We have demonstrated the support network around the team and experienced the enthusiasm from the greater Brisbane Cycling Community hungry to back a squad who are prepared to take it the the Southern Cycling states. It has become a form of 'State of Origin' for Brisbane Conti where we are competing against teams in states where the support is more abundant, and logistics around racing far simpler and cheaper. Brisbane is still seen as a back water of cycling, where talent often remains unrecognised and success usually comes at the cost of a Southern migration. It remains our mission to take the NRS crown off the perennial winners of the event year in year out and bring the focus back to Brisbane.
We love having you along for the ride.
Footnotes from the tour.
Michael Vink has no qualms knocking down warm Tuna Rice Cakes in the final hour of a race. despite the protestations of every other rider to even touch tuna during a stage.
When departing Melbourne on a 2 hour commute to a race start, depart the day before to avoid the notorious Melbourne traffic.
Ensure you don't overestimate Jono's stage ambitions when he has been away in a 5 hour long breakaway, hasn't eaten for an hour, has a 45 second gap to the peloton, is about to climb an 18km berg and has Esteban Chaves in the chasing bunch. 'Tell the lads I've got this sown up and they can take it easy'
Don't let Ollie get a good nights sleep before a big stage to ensure he performs in spectacular fashion. After spending a night cursing Calan's snoring, he promptly has by far his best day at the tour and finishes 7th on a brutally tough final stage around Kinglake. 'I felt like I was flying today...'
Make sure you yell 'You're a f%ckin Mad Dog' at Calan when he's in rhythm on a steep long climb. It seems to motivate him and disturb the other riders in the group.
Bear seems to be most at home when doing washing at 1am in the morning.
Make sure Adrian's sleep apnea machine is on.
Don't give Ryno Tasmanian Pinot before a Queen stage even if it is his Birthday.
'We'll sleep in and eat late and get away last minute'. That way Adrian is sure to be on edge for the entire trip and need extensive counselling on his return to normal duties.
Don't abuse your feed zone staff while the live feed is running.
Apologise to Ralph after repeatedly abusing him for not adjusting his rearview mirror in a timely fashion. 'Push the f%cking mirror out FFS!!'
Send Taylah off to a urologist/endocrinologist after his frequent urination during stages set of alarm bells in the team car regarding the potential onset of Diabetes.
The Herald Sun Tour team
Michael Vink, Calan White, Ollie Martin, Ryan Thomas, Tom Robinson, Jono Noble and Mitch Neumann.
Adrian Duffy Ralph Heading Taylah McLennan Nathan White
3 stages in the break.
2 top 10s
3 Riders in the top 25 on GC
Michael Vink 18th (2nd KOM)
Ollie Martin 23rd
Calan White (u23) 24th
6th of 15 in Teams Classification
5th in Young Riders Classification Calan White
An abundance of TV time, general hilarity, quality racing and rice cakes.