The search2retain team had an uncertain future at the back end of the 2015 season, with riders signing for other squads, as the team couldn?t guarantee them a future. But arrangements were eventually finalised, and the amalgamation with Taiwanese Continental squad Attaque Team Gusto was confirmed. Mark Isaacs, General Manager, spoke to Peloton Caf? about the venture.
?It?s an amalgamation of the two teams, the management structure is largely from search2retain ? now focussed on athlete management with Peter Shandon and myself and the sponsors, Attaque and Gusto Bikes coming from the Taiwanese side. It?s a pathway for our riders, it?s always been an ambition of Peter and myself to expand into Asia and provide that opportunity for our riders.?
The partnership between Taiwan and Australia will be an interesting one, and it will be one to watch closely, as it may offer a blueprint or a cautionary tale for other teams that want to expand into Asia in the future. Both search2retain and the Attaque Team Gusto squads are well known for their development pedigree, with riders from their squads reaching the World Tour ranks in recent years, with Paddy Bevin going via Avanti to end up with Cannondale-Garmin and Chun Kai Feng going straight to Lampre-Merida. ?As Isaacs explains, the development of riders will continue to be the main goal for the team.
?Our primary focus is the development of riders, that?s in Australia, New Zealand and not only Taiwan, but other Asian countries. Ultimately we want to see more Australasian riders in the World Tour. I think it?s very important for the development of our junior and U23 riders to be given the chance to race in Asia. It?s a very high standard of racing over there, and it?s good for riders to get a taste of what?s required to step up to the pro level.?
The team will be doing a lot of racing in China this year, with the team sponsors interests there (Gusto Bikes manufactures frames in Taiwan), but there is still going to be Australian racing on the calendar.
?We have a predominantly UCI race schedule with 15 or so races on our calendar, which will keep us more than busy for the season. There will be plenty of racing for the boys. It?s important for the early season that we do well in Australia, but we?re looking to do well for our sponsors in China, so Tour of China I and II, Tour of Qinghai Lake, Tour of Hainan and Tour of Taihu Lake are all important races for us, and the ones we?ll focus on.?
With the team moving up another level this year, doubling its riding staff and expanding its racing ambitions, Isaacs revealed that he hopes to rise to the level where the riders don?t need to look elsewhere to achieve their ambitions, and can race in some of the best races with Attaque Team Gusto.
?It?s our ambition to ride at a ProConti level, we don?t have a timeline on that yet, obviously internally we?ve got ambitions. We?ll aim to build a strong presence in Asia, and we?ll start small in Europe. We?re riding some U23 races there this season, and we?d like to expand that and start moving our senior riders over to European racing in the future.?
The squad had a decent showing at the nationals, returning their best result in the Under 23 road race, where Alistair Donohoe was 4th and Jai Hindley was 7th. Isaacs outlined who he thought the star performers for the squad would be in 2016.
?This year we?ll be headlined by Cameron Bayley, in 2015 he raced in Italy, had a few challenges, but he?s come back super motivated and ready to put his best foot forward. He?s one of the guys that we?ll be looking to take a step up into a ProConti or World Tour team next year. Alistair Donohoe has his own ambitions, his main focus is Rio this year, on the road and the track. One name that may be new to a lot of people is Jai Hindley, he?s a young guy from Western Australia that has spent some time in the national junior team. He took himself to Italy last season and got some really promising results there. His testing has been quite encouraging, so we?re expecting big things from him this year. One of the Taiwanese riders, Lu, was 2nd in the Taiwanese national championships (to Lampre-Merida rider Chun Kai Feng) a few weeks back and again he tests very well. He has great potential and is currently working with our sports director to be ready for some races later in the year. He?ll be out for the Australian summer as well, and he?ll be one of the riders that we?re looking to increase exposure for this year.?
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