Relatively recent arrivals on the National Road Series scene, Nero Continental have nonetheless shown that they belong in the top echelons of the competition, producing a strong performance in the opening time trial to jump to the top of the overall team standings. They hold the lead in the NRS team's classification with 416 points to Team Bridgelane's 347.
To put this in context, Team Bridgelane are normally regarded the unstoppable juggernaut of the National Road Series, currently going for their tenth successive title under the watchful eye of chief sports director Andrew Christie-Johnston, who has been at the helm for all of those wins.
They've been pushed close, their biggest scare was last season when it took a Lazarus-like performance in the Tour of Tasmania to overcome rival Inform TM Insight MAKE racing with a powerful climbing performance which featured WorldTour-bound riders Dylan Sunderland (NTT ProCycling) and Chris Harper (Jumbo-Visma).
Nero Continental on the other hand, are least prestigious, without years of a winning record and reputation behind them. They have been the team that riders leave for a shot on other Australian squads in the past, with last year's second overall in the individual NRS standings, Sam Hill, leaving to join Bridgelane and 2021 WorldTour rider Taj Jones switching allegiances to ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast.
Bridgelane are a sponsor, Nero isn't. The team has always been Nero and it's similar to the Greenedge name on the first iteration of the Australian WorldTour team. Not to say that they don't have sponsors, they do, as well as a dynamic video presence through team founder Chris Miller.
That hasn't stopped them shooting to the top of the NRS standings today, taking first and third on the opening stage with Jay Vine and Jesse Coyle respectively.
Vine blitzed his way to an impressive time of 18 minutes and 54 seconds, 27 seconds faster than his nearest competitor, Riley Fleming of Oliver's Real Food Racing with Coyle a further three seconds back.
"It's a pretty flat course, dead flat almost," said Vine, dissecting his effort. "Basically, three accelerations during the session and there was basically no pacing strategy, just hold FTP (Functional Threhold Power) for the 20-minute effort. I came in under 20 minutes, so that made it a bit easier on the legs. It was a bit of a rough surface, I tried to get as low and as aero as possible and go as hard as I could."
"Really good to see the form is actually there, there's only so many Zwift races you can do to compare yourself. Noone's shown up to this just to participate, they've all shown up ready to go, so to pull out a result like that is really good to see."
While a personally important result for Vine, who rightfully holds ambitions of going to the WorldTour, it's also falling into place for the team's unlikely bid for overall team honours, with Vine explaining that it's going to be tackled in an 'all for one, one for all' manner.
"The team's come here really open-ended," said Vine. "We're here to race each day like it's a one-day race and we're going for wins. If that means me coming in as a support rider to help a rider get a sprint win, that's what I'm here to do. If it means picking and choosing days that suit myself, we're here to do that as well. As the series goes on we'll obviously keep adapting our plan but that's what the current goal is."
The series of races on the Tweed Coast and Valley doesn't operate in the same fashion as a normal stage race, there's no overall time general classification, teams can swap riders in and out and the only 'overall' is the points standings for the NRS individual and teams classifications.
Team founder Chris Miller was understandably ecstatic at taking the early win, with the bonus of vaulting to the top of the team's standings a nice by-product.
"Yeah, absolutely fantastic," said Miller of the result. "It's a unique race for all the teams and we had a chat with the guys in the team in terms of what the goals were going to be. We're going to win as many days as we can, and if that means that the team looks good in the end then that's an additional bonus.
"Look, Jay on a time trial is an absolute mission at the moment. Anyone following him on Strava at the moment knows he can go super fast on a bike. Jesse's trained really hard for this, he's committed to his training for the period without racing and it's great for all of us to see these guys getting results."
You can watch daily highlights from the event on SBS Cycling Central with a hour-long highlights show from the racing to be broadcast on SBS on Saturday December 19 from 3pm.