• Pat Lane (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) hits out as Nathan Elliott (Kenyan Rider Downunder) grinds his way back (ESi Sports Photography)Source: ESi Sports Photography
The loss of title sponsor Avanti for next year had put financial pressure on the continued operation of the team at its high level. After a long period of uncertainty a deal with National Road Series (NRS) team sponsor SwissWellness seems to have them back and firing.
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

12 Dec 2016 - 3:40 PM  UPDATED 12 Dec 2016 - 5:37 PM

Success doesn't guarantee Avanti IsoWhey Sports future
Seven time National Road Series champions Avanti IsoWhey Sports are the strongest domestic squad in Australia, but that hasn’t translated into sponsors fighting to fund them.

The new agreement will see the two teams come together to create one organisation for 2017. The team will be called IsoWhey Sports SwissWellness and will be registered as a UCI Continental Team, which gives access to races like the Jayco Herald Sun Tour as well as racing across Asia and Europe. Co-founder of Avanti IsoWhey Sports Steve Price was very upbeat in his appraisal of the new structure.

“We started talking to Rick and Melinda Harper (SwissWellness owners) at the National Capital Tour,” said Price. “We could see a lot of similarities between the two teams and where we had come from. The passion that we all have for developing riders through a supportive and cohesive environment is very similar so it made a lot of sense.”

Price and co-founder Andrew Christie-Johnston’s team have been the second largest supplier of riders to the

World Tour from Australia after the Jayco World Tour Academy. This past season saw young climbers Chris Hamilton (Sunweb-Giant) and Ben O’Connor (Dimension Data) make the jump to the top level and a lot of riders see it as a squad where they can get the visibility to get their big break internationally.

Young Aussie NRS rider Chris Hamilton off to the WorldTour
Current under 23 Australian Road Race Champion Chris Hamilton has inked a three-year deal with Giant-Alpecin and will join fellow Aussie Michael Matthews at the WorldTour team from 2017.

SwissWellness had some top results on the local scene this year, with riders like Chris Harper and Jesse Featonby representing the smaller squad admirably throughout.

“Rick and Melinda were doing a great job,” said Price. “Their team is their family which we respect a great deal. They had some breakthrough results this year but they are time poor and could see that running the team on their own was only going to become more demanding.

“This new structure allows them to come in and out without needing to be anywhere near as hands on yet gives them the flexibility to stay involved and work in the areas that they like.”

For the Harpers making the decision to wind up their current team came with a mix of emotions but the opportunity to collaborate with the seven time NRS and concentrate more on their SwissWellness Day Spa and SwissWellness skin care businesses was enough to get the deal across the line.

“Melinda and I have long been admirers of what Andrew and Steve have achieved with their respective teams over the years, their results are truly impressive. We are excited to be joining forces with them going forward to create a new team that we think will become a significant and lasting force in Australian road cycling,” said Rick Harper.

Rumours around the squad have been swirling for some time now and whilst the announcement of the sponsors didn’t contain details of the new signings it is heavily rumoured that Scott Sunderland (Illuminate), Jesse Kerrison (State of Matter/MAAP), Chris Harper (SwissWellness), Tim Roe (Drapac) and Cameron Bayly (Attaque Team Gusto) will all be joining the squad for 2017.

Mark Fenner, head coach of the team was excited about the prospects for next season.

"Every year when we get the data from the new riders and start assembling the team I am truly impressed,” said Fenner. “This year we have complimented the always strong climbing group in the team with what can only be described as a World class sprint line up that we believe can go head to head with anyone in the world.”

The combination of Commonwealth Games gold-medallist and track world champion Sunderland and Under-23 national criterium champion Kerrison is likely to be the touted ‘world-class’ sprint combination. Both took big steps forward this year and it will be interesting to see if the pair work together in tandem or target different races.

Tim Roe is one of the unlucky riders that wasn’t given the chance to move up to World Tour level when the Drapac sponsorship merged with the Cannondale setup and instead will have to race at a lower level.

Chris Harper moves over from the SwissWellness squad and the combination climber and time-triallist will be hoping that his 2016 will be a sign of things to come. He almost pulled off a stunning long range attack at the Under 23 nationals road race before going into a head to head battle with Chris Froome for the mountains jersey in the Herald Sun Tour. His recent win at the Tour of Bright shows that he'll be hitting the ground running in 2017.

Cameron Bayly is another rider who would be considered as one who is just waiting to be given that shot at the next level. After a strong season in Asia, Bayly has shown that he’s got what it takes to be a force in Australian cycling. He was agonizingly close to a breakthrough win in China in November, just a final stage crash off the overall win in the Tour of Taihu Lake.