The Australian adventure continues with the inaugural Towards Zero Race Melbourne circuit race on Thursday and Cadel Evan Great Ocean Road Race on Sunday. Cannondale-Drapac sport director Tom Southam reviews our Tour Down Under performance and looks to the upcoming one-day races.
What are the most positive things you saw or heard during Tour Down Under from the team?
I think the team operates really well. The team is good. I don’t think they got the result they deserved last week. Given that we brought in two riders that had never raced with this group, one of whom had never done a WorldTour race, and we had some back luck losing Brendan [Canty], I’m really pleased with the way the group came together.
Tom [Scully] physically went through quite a lot to come to Adelaide so late, from such a different time zone, with such a different temperature change. I’m very happy he was able to still be operational during the week.
Will Clarke was in good form and he showed his transition to WorldTour will be seamless. He’s already been here before.
Those guys fit in well with the rest of the team, and over time, that will serve the group really well.
I think TJ [Slagter] is in good shape. He’s one of the guys that perhaps did not get what he wanted from the week but his ride up Willunga was consistent with what we’ve seen him. I think he’s going in the right direction, and I’m hopeful that will continue going into Cadel’s.
We came into the Tour Down Under with some ambitious goals. We wanted to podium, and we believed the top step of the podium was within reach. How do you grapple with the difference between ambitions and the outcome?
I think we set the bar internally quite high. Both TJ and Mike [Woods] set the bar really high for themselves. When things came unstuck, it felt worse than it probably was. It can seem like the worse thing ever when you’re in the thick of it.
Richie [Porte] was head and shoulders above the rest, all the rest, and for us to have won, I think it would have had to have been a slightly different kind of fight, which it wasn’t. At the end of the day, Richie was well clear. That may have dented us internally a bit, but I’m sure we’ll all bounce back.
You likened directing your first WorldTour race to being handed the keys to your big brother’s sports car. How did you find the first drive?
It’s been great. I had this discussion with Michael Drapac as well, coming here with a WorldTour team with this quality of riders, it’s fantastic. The team has been great. I feel like I fit in easily and everyone worked really hard, which makes my job easier.
When you watch a race, you didn’t realise how many people are working so hard to support these guys to make sure everything will go right. Everything we could control went right.
The sandwiches were really good. I enjoyed that.
We’re in Geelong now and gearing up for Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. How do you like our chances?
It’s a one-day race. You can always win it. It’s very different coming from a stage race like Tour Down Under where you’re very much in stage race mentality. We keep the same group of riders and stay together all week, which is like a stage race, so it feels a bit odd that it’s only a one-day. You have to go through a sizeable shift as a team. Everything is going to have to change in terms of our approach to the race.
You were at Cadel Road Race with Drapac last year. What can you tell us about what we can expect on Sunday?
It’s an interesting race. It will change this year. Last year nearly half the teams were Australian-registered continental teams, there were fewer WorldTour teams. That it’s a WorldTour race will change the dynamic of how the race runs. It will be difficult to predict.
That being said, we’ve got riders who are certainly in the condition to be competitive. It may not be the same guys we backed at Tour Down Under. We’re also going to bring Brendan back. He showed at Nationals already that he’s in great shape on short climb. I think they will change our dynamic a little.
Cannondale-Drapac for 2017 Cadel Evan Great Ocean Road Race:
Paddy Bevin (NZL)
Brendan Canty (AUS)
Will Clarke (AUS)
Alex Howes (USA)
Tom-Jelte Slagter (NLD)
Tom Van Asbroeck (NLD)
Mike Woods (CAN)