Avanti cycling team out for glory but know they're on rivals' radars
Professional cycling team Avanti Racing know that once the national championship road race begins on Sunday, they will be marked men.
Continued success on the national road series means that Avanti riders can no longer fly under the radar. They are expected to be on the front of the peloton and dictating the race, which for them can be frustrating as their rivals are more than happy to let them do a hard day's riding and then try to nick the win at the last minute.
It's something that clearly frustrates 2014 NZ national time trial champion Taylor Gunman but it's a price they have to pay for being sostrong when they work as a unit.
Their Kiwi contingent includes Gunman, 2014 Oceania time trial champion Joe Cooper and 2014 NZ U23 champion Fraser Gough. They form a strong core, willing to leave everything on the road for the team.
The team's dynamic weighs heavily towards time triallists, something Gunman believes is part of manager Andrew Christie-Johnson's plan for success.
"Andrew always talks about team dynamics. You can still have one guy who can win all the races but it's the people around you as well. We do race as a team, and you need people who can ride on the front as well as win the sprints and everything else. It just goes back to simple dynamics and time triallists are generally quite strong to ride on the front for a long period of time."
This environment has allowed them to learn from each other and develop a strong unit.
Hawkes Bay rider Fraser Gough has welcomed a move back to the southern hemisphere after three years in Belgium.
"We always bounce ideas off each other. I always see what they're doing and how they're going into their training and stuff, we learn a lot from each other ... Being on a New Zealand team is great because you have the same sense of humour and you get on with your team-mates. There's competition but it's not cut-throat like in [Belgium] where there's no respect through the team, even though you're team-mates. It's great being back with the Kiwis [because] they're just so easy to get along with."
Gough will play a helping role tomorrow after their efforts in the time trial yesterday. Although they haven't confirmed a team leader, it's likely that Avanti will look to get 2014 bronze medallist Tom Davison or Tour of Tasmania winner Patrick Bevin in the mix at the sharp end.
After a strong 2014, Bevin, a 23-year-old from Hamilton, is looking forward to the year ahead.
"I think the camaraderie is really good and it's going to be a really fun year with these guys ... it's a big race season and there's a couple of aims to peak at different times with the big programme we've got in Asia and Australia. There's a fair amount of racing so we'll look to be consistent through the season."
Avanti's Tom Davison, a surprise bronze medallist in 2014, knows he won't be able to slip under the radar this time.
His move from representing New Zealand in triathlon to professional cycling has meant that this year he has been free to focus on cycling and learning the skills and tactics that are part of professional road cycling.
"I did the race [last year] with normal triathlon fitness and I think it got me through but this year a lot more specific training has gone in to it and I'm definitely a different athlete."
"It's really cool having a team atmosphere around training and racing, it's awesome. Just being able to use the other guys energy to get you across the line is cool."
As the only member of the team not to compete in the time trial, the Christchurch local has put all his efforts into the road race and conquering Dyers Pass Road.
"I don't think anyone will be looking at me more than any other racers but we've got a great group of guys around and we're going to be a force to be reckoned with."
- The Press