By James Finch-Penninger @FishysCP
BrakeDown Podcast founder
Orica-AIS Wins: Bay Crits GC Elvin stg Williams+Elvin,
Nats RR Spratt 1st Neylan 3rd, TT Garfoot 1st
Womens Tour GC Garfoot stg Garfoot + Williams,
Cadel?s Spratt 1st Neylan 2nd.
Ladies Tour of Qatar Stage 2 Garfoot
At the heart of Orica-AIS?s superb run of results to start the season is a new team dynamic, which staff and riders have labelled as the key to the team?s success.
It has been a dominant return from the Orica-AIS women in the initial part of the season, with the squad almost taking a clean sweep throughout January, winning almost everything on offer. From Gracie Elvin?s win at Bay Crits all the way through to national champion Amanda Spratt?s win in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, it has been a display which has had other riders at a loss on how to beat the intimidating World Tour squad. After the race, Amanda Spratt praised the feeling within the squad which has seen the team take eight wins and seven podiums with five different riders already this season.
?It?s a dream start for the team to win all the races we?ve started, but the biggest highlight has been the way that everyone has been racing, everyone?s on form, we?re committing to a plan 100% and everyone?s been given opportunities too. The aim now is to take that into the European season and aim for bigger results there as well.?
Perhaps even more telling is Rachel Neylan?s reaction who was just as happy with her 2nd position in the race behind her teammate this season as with her breakout win in the same event last year.
?I am really emotional today, it?s a very sentimental race for me. It?s a wonderful to win a race solo like I did last year, and that set me up to get a ride on Orica. But I tell you what, the feeling today of doing what I did and contributing and setting up my teammate for the win, then being there into the final and sprinting into 2nd place, just putting everything into executing the perfect team plan, it does beat doing it on your own. To share a race victory and a podium with such a special group of people where the feeling is so genuine and organically positive at the moment is very, very special.?
PelotonCafe?caught up with sports director Gene Bates to find out what has changed within the team to take this remarkable series of wins. He started by reflecting on last year?s comparatively small returns during this stage of the previous season.
?We had a few changes at the end of the season before (2014), a few new riders on the team, and it took a bit longer than we?d hoped to gel as a team. That?s probably why we had? not poor performances, but probably not what we expected from January last year. So we wanted to have a good showing in the January races this time, it?s important for our sponsors and also for team morale I think. The idea is that we carry the form into the European races straight away.?
Putting his finger on what has made the squad feeling that much different this year, Bates pointed towards the team?s training camp which they hold in the region around Bright in Victoria each preseason.
?Without giving away too many secrets, we did some team dynamic work, we had some experts come in and give some good advice and work with the group, and they?ll continue to work with us throughout the season. We wanted to focus on things that mattered, not just individual success, but what success meant to the whole group. When a few of the girls sacrifice something for one of the others, then you get that trust and commitment to the team, and the favours being repaid immediately. We?ve had seven wins (now eight with Garfoot?s Qatar win) and 7 podiums with 5 different riders already, so I think the process has been successful already.?
Sometimes moments during races best sum up the camaraderie between teammates better than quotes at the end do, and one such moment was Amanda Spratt?s suicidal solo attack in the heat of the South Australian summer to set up the stage for a later Lizzie Williams attack, which proved the winning move. Bates again,
?That went a long way within the team, not just between those two, I think it was a great example of the commitment and the teamwork that?s happening within the team. It?s only going to lead to better things once we get to Europe.?
For the season, the squad will have goals in European racing but the big carrot is the chance for Olympic selection in what is going to be a competitive squad to get into.
?A big goal is the Olympics, we?ll want to have a number of riders in the team for Rio in August, to do that obviously we?ll have to qualify some spots in spring.?
With their strong performances to date, it?s likely that many of the Orica-Greenedge women will have the inside running for those tickets to Rio.
BrakeDown Podcast founder