AUSTRALIA’S newest UCI Professional-Continental cycling team, Drapac, has touched down in Ballarat with grand expectations for the upcoming Cycling Australia National Road Championships.
The team decided not to compete in last week’s Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, instead opting to embark on an eight-day training camp in Bright before travelling straight to the host city of this year’s national titles.
Drapac has been upgraded to Pro-Continental status for the 2014 season, meaning it now has more scope to compete on a world-wide scale, and Drapac directeur sportif Henk Vogels is keen to start the New Year off with a bang.
“This year will be the biggest ever year for us as a team – we will be fielding one of our strongest ever line-ups at the nationals and we’re hoping to do some big things over the next few months,” Vogels said.
“We’re also going to enter in some big races over in Asia, America and Europe.”
Vogels, the Australian Road Champion in 1999, raced as a professional between 1995 and 2008 and joined the team as the directeur sportif last year.
He has labelled this year’s time-trial layout as a “strong man’s course” and the criterium as a “difficult circuit” given the cyclists will traverse Sturt Street’s three-per cent gradient for more than 30 laps, but his interest, and everyone else’s, lies within the road race.
“The road race is the flagship event and our primary target, although we have quite a lot of strength across the board,” he said.
“It was a hard, intensive training camp in Bright, we put them through a lot of motorpacing, a lot of short, sharp efforts and quite a lot of climbing to simulate the terrain in Buninyong,” he said.
“It’s a hard course at the best of times and adding two laps will only make it harder, but I think we’ll see a similar sort of result to what we would in other years.”
Drapac’s leading contenders for the road race include former winners Darren Lapthorne and Travis Meyer, former under-23 winner Wesley Sulzberger and reigning under-23 champion Jordan Kerby.
The team also has nine riders entered in the criterium and a handful set to take on the time trial.
Jonathan Cantwell, Malcolm Rudolph and Adam Phelan will head the charge in the criterium, while those contesting the time trial will include former runner-up Jack Anderson and Will Clarke.
The riders will spend today and tomorrow looking over the courses before the nationals kick off on January 8.