• (L to R) Brendan Johnston, Richie Porte, Sarah Gigante, Grace Brown (Getty)Source: Getty
We talked to the teams to find out the strengths and weaknesses for the squads heading to the National Road Series (NRS) event at the Santos Festival of Cycling.
By
SBS Cycling Central

16 Jan - 2:11 PM  UPDATED 20 Jan - 12:26 PM

Four stages of racing around the Adelaide Hills and the Barossa, featuring two intermediate stages, the traditional Willunga hill-top finish and a criterium around Victoria Park in the city centre for the men and women.

Men's Race - January 21-24

There to win:

Team BikeExchange

Australia's WorldTour team normally goes in as one of the favourites against stacked WorldTour fields and they'll again be favoured here. Cameron Meyer is a former winner and 'Durbo' is normally flying at this time of year, but their chances will likely rest on Groves in the sprints and Hamilton on the Willunga climb, though he downplayed his chances.

"Even if it’s not a WorldTour race anymore, it’s still an Aussie race and an Aussie team," said Hamilton ahead of the Festival of Cycling. "We’ll go in just as motivated. It’s about trying to get some early wins on the board on home soil.”

"It’s really good that they’re on, I can have my first race on home soil, but maybe without the emphasis going for the win. Also, there’s just Willunga this year, normally there are two climbing stages. We’ve got fast guys in Kaden (Groves) and Edmo (Alex Edmondson) to get maybe a couple sprint wins."

Riders: Lucas Hamilton, Cameron Meyer, Luke Durbridge, Alex Edmondson, Damien Howson and Kaden Groves.

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Team Garmin-Australia

The Australian national team normally goes into the Tour Down Under with the best riders from the top NRS team in Australia, but this year it will be the temporary home for the 'King of Willunga', Richie Porte. He's the favourite when the race is full of WorldTour riders, and a shorter race should mean that the Stage 3 ascent of Willunga is more decisive this year.

Third-year professional James Whelan could win the race in his own right and the remainder of the squad is made of the track endurance squad looking to aid to their form ahead of the Olympics. They'll be a formidable outfit in the sprints as well as the climbs.

Riders: Richie Porte (INEOS-Grenadiers), James Whelan (EF Education-Nippo), Sam Welsford, Kelland O’Brien, Lucas Plapp, Alex Porter and Leigh Howard.

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Team Bridgelane

A squad with depth and top-end quality. Jensen Plowright will rival Kaden Groves in the sprints, Nick White is also an option on more selective stages. The rest are all quality climbers, with youngster Lindorff and Asian Tour veteran Morey probably the pick of the group. 

It's strange to have them not coming into an NRS race as an absolute favourite, but they'll be in the mix on all terrain. 

Riders: Nick White, Jensen Plowright, Ben Metcalfe, Tyler Lindorff, Alastair Christie-Johnston, Sam Jenner, Drew Morey.

Cervelo-Tonsley Village

Formerly known as Lightsview, you'd only really be aware of this squad if you're really into your domestic cycling action! Harper thought he'd made his last NRS appearance as he dominated the queen stage of the Tour of Tasmania back in 2019, but the second-year Jumbo-Visma rider is back banging bars with the locals after a good debut year against the best. He's one of the premier Australian climbers and past summer form has shown that he's normally in good form at this time of year.

A quality squad outside Harper, Roe has ridden WorldTour, Bayly was recently one of the top riders on the Asian Tour and there a lot of strong regulars on the South Australian scene.

Riders: Chris Harper (Jumbo-Visma), Tim Roe, Chris Luxton, Cam Ivory, Cam Bayly, Justin Gassner, Oliver Anderson.

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Stage-hunters:

CCS Cycling

Home of 2020 National Road Series champion, Brendan Johnston, the CCS squad have proved that they can battle against the odds to take results and this race could see them disrupt the more highly-fancied teams again after securing Johnston's NRS title at the National Tour in the Tweed at the end of last year.
 
"For the CCS team we really want the momentum from the Tweed NRS event to continue," said Matt Darling, CCS team manager. "We have fielded a strong line up for overall contention and the support required from riders and staff to achieve this. 
 
"Our objectives for the race is to continue to build as a team and take any opportunity that presents itself be it a breakaway (most aggressive jersey) or KOM jersey. A top 10 result for our leader is our goal. "

Riders: Brendan Johnston, Cameron Roberts, Reece Tucknott, Kris McCreath, Nicholas Darling and Mackenzie Edwardson.

Israel Start-Up Nation Composite Team

A bit of an odd one, Berwick and Jones will race in the colours of their new team, their racing debut with the Israeli WorldTour squad. Mackellar will race with the feeder team in 2021, and lines up here as well.

The rest of the team will made up of some very promising track athletes and last year's national championships sensation, podium finisher in the road race, Marcus Culey.  The team's best chances at a result is most likely with Jones in the sprints, Culey from a breakaway or with the pint-sized Berwick on the climbs.

Riders: Sebastian Berwick, Taj Jones, Alastair MacKellar (Israel Cycling Academy), Connor Leahy (Podium Potential Australia), Josh Duffy (Podium Potential Australia), Graeme Frislie (Podium Potential Australia) and Marcus Culey (Team Ukyo).

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Oliver's Real Food Racing

A lot of NRS experience in the squad, with Davids and White particularly renowned in the hard races. Bolton, White and Pearce are no slouches in the sprint and Queensland TT champ Fleming might be an outsider for an overall ride.

"We are of course appreciative of everybody involved in getting this event off the ground and on the calendar," said team manager Sam Layzell. "We will naturally be looking to make the most of any opportunity that presents itself. We have managed to select a super strong team with loads of experience - particularly with our three Adelaide-based athletes. Everyone's looking forward to it!"

Riders: Brendon Davids, Riley Fleming, Lachlan Glasspool, Campbell Jones, Callum Pearce, Thomas Bolton, Liam White.

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St George Continental

A very experienced squad that will be hard to keep out of the action in the intermediate stages and the hilly finish on Willunga. Cavanagh is a multiple tour-winner in Asia, Crome has a Herald Sun Tour and Tour of Japan stage win to his name, while Mawditt has a Tour of Tasmania win. 

Barnhill will be one to catch in Australia while you still can, the Wagga youngster is off to join Ljubljana Gusto Santic, former team of Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar, in Europe this year. 

Riders: Ryan Cavanagh, Sam Crome, Connor Reardon, Lionel Mawditt and Zac Barnhill.

ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast

A squad that will miss the injured Cameron Scott, but still packs a punch in the sprint. Matthew Rice, Michael Rice and Wiggins are all rapid on a flat finish, while the likes of Lyons, and youngsters Gilmore, Bogna and Stenning will search out breakaways.

Riders: Oliver Stenning, Alex Bogna, Matthew Rice, Zack Gilmore, Angus Lyons, Michael Rice and Craig Wiggins.

Inform TMX MAKE

Great experience at all levels of racing, mixed with young talent makes for the Inform squad. Von Hoff's Commonwealth gold medal ride wasn't so long ago, but he hasn't race too much in between, and the aptly-named Blake Quick might be their man for the sprints.

O'Brien continues to show that he's one of the best around on the domestic scene year-in, year-out and German Freienstein finally gets a chance to race in the big South Australian event after having the quality, if not the right citizenship, to do so in the past. 

Porter and Turnbull have shown flashes of great ability on the climbs in their young careers, and Johnson has been labelled by Richie Porte in the past as a rider to watch.

Riders: Mark O'Brien, Raphael Freienstein, Rudy Porter, Carter Turnbull, Zac Johnson, Blake Quick and Steele von Hoff.  

CycleHouse

A collection of very able riders headlined by Mat Ross and Cyrus Monk who both have significant experience riding in Europe. Monk is the Under 23 national road race champion from 2018 and rides for Irish team EvoPro Racing, while Ross has won the Tour of Bright stage up Mt Hotham with Chris Harper in attendance, so is no slouch when the road turns upwards. 

Riders: Mathew Ross, Ryan Schilt, Terrance Hore, Steve Robb, Cyrus Monk, Will Moloney-Morton and Patrick Drapac.

 

Giant Racing Team

Grafton-Inverell winner Will Hodges has the runs on the board, but the squad is near to bursting with young talent. Giant Racing ride to support the Dementia Foundation as well, a charity that team manager Nick Locandro is heavily involved in.

"We are really excited about the squad we have for this year and feel we have added some great riders," said Locandro. "I'm really excited to see what Godfrey Slattery after turning his full attention to the road. Will Hodges has already proven himself with strong results at Grafton to Inverell and Melbourne to Warrnambool and continues to get better.

"We have great leadership and experience with Josh Harrison and Dylan Lindsey. I think Bill Simpson will be a real surprise packet for us this year and riders like Alex Holden and Adam Blazevic who have been on the team for a year or two are really ready for break-out years."

Riders: Will Hodges, Adam Blazevic, Bill Simpson, Josh Harrison, Godfrey Slattery, Dylan Lindsey and Alex Holden.

MEIYO CCN PRO CYCLING TEAM

Former world champion individual pursuiter, Jordan Kerby, now a New Zealander, headlines a strong squad for the Taiwanese-registered squad. Waters and Schultz in particular are two young riders to watch, good young climbers who have plenty of people around them confident that they can step up to the next level.

Riders: Sam Volkers, Jordan Kerby, Bailey Waters, Elliot Schultz, Brad Soden and Kane Richards.

Nero Continental

A versatile team, but maybe lacking that out-and-out winning rider with Jay Vine winning the Zwift Academy and joining Alpecin-Fenix.

"After a widely successful National Tour at the end of 2020, the Nero Continental squad will look very different at this year's TDU," said team owner and rider Chris Miller, who's stuck in Sydney due to border restrictions. "Whilst the SA Covid Protocols have impacted the teams formation, it has provided a unique opportunity for our riders to experience a different style of racing.

"Cooper Sayers continues to build his road racing confidence, whilst Dylan McKenna will take in increased leadership across the week. It may not be the names you are used to, but the mentality will not change."

Riders: Cooper Sayers, Leigh Phillips, Dylan McKenna, Myles Stewart and Jonothan Farley.

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Dark horses:

Butterfields-Insurance Advisernet p/b VDR

The South Australian locals may be better known under their old name, Van D'am. They have an NRS stage winner in Jason Thomason on the roster, but their young stars Saunders and Siwek will be their focus most likely for the racing. 

They've got plenty of local success on the Super Series, will that translate to this level of competition?

Riders: Tristan Saunders, Jason Thomason, Zachary Marriage, Rylan Dowdell, Daniel Siwek, David Randall and Will Golding.

Velofit Australia Racing Team

A mixture of WA and Tasmanian talent on this roster, once the next big thing in Australian cycling before discovery of a heart condition Joshua Wilson is still a very good rider and Kaine Cannan is a wattage powerhouse. Lanigan is handy across a variety of terrains, and will look to mix it up in the selective sprint finishes. Patrick Saccani-Williams won't be arriving short on form, he's logged a number of massive rides in recent weeks.

Riders: Joshua Wilson, Kaine Cannan, Jacob Langham, Bryce Lanigan, Matthew Harvey, Xavier Cooper and Patrick Saccani-Williams.

Veris Racing

Veris Racing manager Brad Hall on the men's and women's teams that the Western Australian team brings to the Festival of Cycling. 

"We have 3 female attendees only due to COVID restrictions," said Hall. "We have a blend of youth and experience in both groups and are excited to participate in this iconic event. This will serve as a great opportunity to race alongside some of Australia's best athletes. 

Riders: Brendon Green and Byron Woods.

 

Women's Race - January 21-24

There to win:

Team BikeExchange

Travel restrictions looked to have kept Lucy Kennedy from attending the race, but last minute border changes mean that the rangy climber can make the journey. She and Grace Brown both have climbing pedigree and a history of dominating NRS fields on their way to professional deals, but it will be a lot more difficult here.

Sarah Roy packs a punch in the sprint, and Alex Manly does a guest stint on the team where she rode for five years as a professional. 

Riders: Jess Allen, Grace Brown, Lucy Kennedy, Sarah Roy, Georgia Williams, Alex Manly (Guest rider)

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Team Garmin-Australia

Sarah Gigante headlines the squad for the race. The talented 20-year-old will be hard if not impossible to stop on the climbs after showcasing scintillating form at the recent NRS nine-day tour in the Tweed River region.

The track endurance squad features heavily again, with experienced rouleur/sprinter Lauretta Hanson and newly minted WorldTour rider Neve Bradbury ones to watch as well. Will they have too much power for the rest of the field? 

Riders: Sarah Gigante (TIBCO-SVB), Annette Edmondson, Georgia Baker, Neve Bradbury (Canyon-SRAM), Ashlee Ankudinoff, Maeve Plouffe and Lauretta Hanson (Trek–Segafredo).

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Roxsolt Liv SRAM

Australia's premier team below WorldTour level, Roxsolt Liv SRAM, are perennial contenders. However, a few riders lost ahead of this event will likely see them confined to sprinting with team part-owner and star rider Peta Mullens, and having a crack on Willunga Hill with Bree Wilson or former pro Carlee Taylor.

Roxsolt will also triple up, racing the mountain bike and cyclocross for a proper multi-discipline approach to the week's action.

"We've lost a few regulars; Neve (Bradbury) to the Zwift Academy, Emily (Herfoss) to pregnancy and Justine (Barrow) to a collarbone, so it's a very 'fresh' roster for us," said Mullens. "Carlee Taylor returns to racing after four years of 'retirement' and we've been able to offer a few prosperous MTB'ers a chance to explore opportunities on the road. 

"Being able to race in this unstable COVID world is a gift and we're grateful to be at the Santos Festival of Cycling."

Riders: Peta Mullens, Bree Wilson, Carlee Taylor, Nicola Macdonald, Saffron Burton, Courtney Sherwell and Izzy Flint.

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Specialized Women's Racing

Raynolds finished third in Stage 1 of the Tour Down Under last year, a career high for her in UCI racing and she'll be one of the fastest finishers at the race. A varied line-up has track riders, young climbers and a triathlete taking to the start. 

De Francesco and Harris particularly impressed in recent NRS racing, taking a significant step-up despite high levels of competition and will looking to continue that trend here. 

Riders: Bree Hargrave, Matilda Raynolds, Lizzie Stannard, Laura Luxford, Ella Bloor, Holly Harris and Danielle De Francesco.

Stage-hunters:

ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast

A team packed full of speed with a number of up-and-coming track riders forming the core of the squad. Ruby Roseman-Gannon is one of the best sprinters in Australian cycling at present and also not far off the best climbers, a very exciting prospect, but also one to watch right now! 

Riders: Alex Martin-Wallace, Anya Louw, Sophie Edwards, Ruby Roseman-Gannon, Holly Lubcke, Chloe Moran and Lauren Perry.

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Sydney Uni-Staminade

Nicole Frain is fresh off an impressive series of performances at the season-ending NRS National Tour, she'll be one to watch on the climbs and there a number of very promising young riders like Haylee Fuller and Catelyn Turner who impressed mightily in the junior ranks and now get to test themselves against the best.  

Riders: Nicole Frain, Haylee Fuller, Jennifer Darmody and Catelyn Turner. 

Dark horses:

SASI (South Australian Sports Institute)

SASI are one of the few state institutes that still regularly fields teams in NRS races, with a number of track riders who don't have much experience at this high-level of competition. Three of their riders will be competing in the track league night ahead of the road racing.

Riders: Amber Pate, Katarina Chung-Orr, Celia Cowan and Fleur Wellings.

Giant Racing Team

A mix of young riders and experienced NRS regulars for the Giant Racing women racing in South Australia.

"We've got no expectations as a whole," said team manager Nick Locandro. "We have been hit hard with injury as well as COVID restrictions so don’t have the full strength line up we would of liked to have taken.

"There hasn’t been racing for a long time so it’s just about getting the feel for it again and each individual rider will have their own goals in terms of what we are hoping to get out of the race for them. We will try and have a rider in the break at the some stage but this is more about setting the year up as a whole for us."

Riders: Chelsea Holmes, Ella Falzarano, Gemma Mollenhauer and Emma Viotto.

Velofit Australia Racing Team

The West Australian based team brings a mix of international race experience with riders who compete on the Asian continental circuit and in Europe, USA and New Zealand. Their 2021 Santos Festival of Cycling women’s team will be led by former Holden Gusto team member Erin Bertram (nee Kinnealy), who has raced the Santos Tour Down Under in 2017 and 2018, she's putting in the base kilometres at the moment, having just done a 285-kilometre ride for charity.

Riders: Erin Bertram, Tori Barry, Jess Lawler, Kate Bonner, Darcie Richards, Cassia Boglio and Danica Wiggins.

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Step-FWD I.T. Suzuki

A squad that has featured in past summers of cycling in Australia and are regulars on the domestic scene, but they'll have their work cut out against the top riders here. 

"StepFWD I.T. Suzuki is excited to be racing the Santos Festival Of Cycling," said team manager Marty Tobin, "the team is looking forward to the tough road stages especially the iconic Willunga Hill finish.

"Expect to see Queenslander Emily Fowler and Tasmanian Amalia Langham in the mix of the criterium. New recruit and SA local Staci McCudden will be looking to impress on the local roads."

Riders: Emily Fowler, Pia Smith, Amalia Langham, Staci McCudden, Sharni Morley.

Veris Women's Racing

New SBS Cycling Central contributor Kirsty Deacon will line-up for Veris against the toughest competition around. Together with Stephanie Corset, daughter of past national champion Ruth Corset, Veris will be looking to continue racing in her normal aggressive style. 

Riders: Kirsty Deacon, Stephanie Corset and Nicole Mitsigeorgis.