The announcement of the UniSA national team for the Tour Down Under created quite a stir on social media and in discussions of the race leading up to the big race. It is a great chance for riders and teams to get exposure on a much bigger stage than the NRS, or even the Continental races, so naturally it is closely followed and each selection is analysed closely. Doing so in a robust debate is how cycling gets stronger and generates more interest, so Peloton Caf? decided to get the thoughts of prominent team directors Damian Harris (State of Matter/MAAP) and Tom Petty (Mobius Future Racing).
We have also spoken with?Andrew Christie-Johnston (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) who will outline the selection process for us shortly.
Damian Harris: ?Avanti have been the number 1 team in Australia for a reason, Andrew (Christie-Johnston) has built a great empire there, and they?ve got the results to go with it. I?m sure Andrew wouldn?t have wanted to have the whole team being Avanti, I?m sure that he?s not the one pushing them for selection, everyone knows he?s a selector, and everyone would think ?Oh, he?s taken care of his riders there?. (On only two Under 23s being selected) People have put money in to support the team, so you have to be careful maintaining their competitiveness. But with the level of our Under 23s at the moment, to win or do well at Nationals, whether it be the criterium, time trial or road race, you?re at a really high level. Obviously the World Tour is a step up, but how do you know unless you give them a go? I think at least 3 out of the 7 man squad should be Under 23s, it?s not as though we?ve got a lack of Under 23 talent in Australia at the moment. Someone like Steele von Hoff, great rider, great guy, but he?s got a ProContinental contract, so why not give a young guy or someone who hasn?t had that opportunity before like Scott Sunderland, Melbourne to Warrnambool winner, to get that experience? If they?re looking to get Steele some racing, why not send him to (the New Zealand Cycle Classic) where his team (One Pro Cycling) is racing the week before. With those sort of options there, you wonder why there have to be options taken away from the younger guys who are trying to take that next step.?
Tom Petty: ?I?m sympathetic a little bit, you always want the best for who you know, but it?s difficult to see a rider (Ben Dyball) who had one of the most consistent nationals, 5th in the time trial and 13th in the road race. To not have him selected for the UniSA team, which is really the main one, competing against the World Tour teams, was a bit disappointing. No matter what, there?s always going to be contention about the selection, and I think that?s part of the beauty of the sport. Where it?s difficult is when someone like Andrew Christie-Johnston, rightly held in such high regard, is on the selection committee, people start to feel that this Avanti prejudice comes from there. A lot of his riders would actually be selected on merit anyway, and when you are choosing the team, you have to look at the team as a whole and not just the results. I think that maybe there should be a higher preference given to the Under 23s or riders that haven?t been selected before to show themselves. I think the NRS season this year is going to be a really interesting one, and Avanti will get a run for their money. I would like to see a higher commitment to younger or developing riders, and treat it more as a stepping stone or a taste of what the World Tour is like, rather than the riders that have had an opportunity to impress at that level already.?
Check out Fishy?s podcast Brakedownpodcast for more great interviews, race previews and reports.