It’s not uncommon for riders to transfer between teams in the off-season, less so between countries. Robert Stannard has bucked the trend with the former New Zealander set to ride as part of the prestigious Jayco WorldTour Academy, which is the production line for young Australians wanting to get a position in a WorldTour team.
Stannard, 18, rode with the Mobius Future Racing team during 2016 at National Road Series events and acquitted himself very well against much more experienced competition. He has the archtype build of a cyclist and is one of the few athletes that you can tell immediately is a special talent.
After only recently switching allegiances to Australia and no prior state or national performances to his name, Stannard was first off the starting ramp and first back to the finish. He then sat in the hot seat for almost an hour, watching rider after rider come in until finally the final starter Callum Scotson (BMC Development team) bettered his time, relegating Stannard to the silver medal.
“I rode one of my best time trials ever,” said Stannard. “I didn’t expect to be up there that long in the hot seat, it was getting pretty close in the end but I was glad to be up there. Looking at my power, I had one of my best ever time trials, the training paid off and I’m very pleased.”
Stannard was resplendent in his Jayco World Tour Academy kit, confirming that he will be jumping straight into the squad that has seen the likes of Michael Matthews, Caleb Ewan, Jack Haig and Robert Power make the step up to the World Tour in recent years. That appears to be the main reason behind the nationality switch, with Australian infrastructure at the under 23 level a lot more impressive than the level of support Cycling New Zealand provides.
“I had the opportunity to have a season over in Europe with the Australian team. That was my goal as a first year Under 23 and it was the best opportunity available. I was actually born in Australia (Sydney), I have a passport, so I could choose. I’ve been doing a lot of racing in Australia in the last few years so it was a kinda choice I decided to make.”
“I’m not really sure what kind of rider I am, I can do a bit of everything, so I’m looking for a bit of experience, maybe find out what sort of rider I am racing at a higher level.”
Stannard showed his potential racing in the National Road Series and that caught the eye of World Tour Academy Head Coach James Victor. According to Victor, it was the National Capital Tour where Stannard really announced himself, he was third on the summit finish of Black Mountain and finished 2nd overall on the race.
In fact heads were turned throughout the season as he raced for Mobius Future Racing, a fact his former team director Tom Petty was particularly proud of.
“It’s amazing, there’s this guy called Robert Stannard and none of the NRS teams wanted him," said Petty. "It was clear from chatting with his dad that he was a special rider and we did what we could to make sure he was part of our program. His biggest attribute isn’t his natural ability or physique, it’s his mentality. At this stage it’s easy to get carried away with Under 23 riders, but with Rob’s mentality that will mean that he’ll keep progressing.”
“The guys at Mobius were really supportive of me,” said Stannard. “A lot of them were based in Sydney, where I am when I’m in Australia so it was great to have that group of guys around.”
Stannard has a long way to go in his development and will be a rider that will be exciting to watch grow and develop. When asked which race he’d love to win in the future, his ambition to progress to the very top of the sport is evident.
“Obviously it’s a big dream but world champs, the elites would be great. I’m really just looking to see where next year takes me at this stage though.”