Jacarandas, Sapphires & Bikes : G2I 2015

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It’s been an exciting second half of the season for AMR Renault Racing, and this Saturday the team will round out its involvement in the 2015 National Road Series with the time-honoured Grafton to Inverell Classic. It will be our second involvement in the famously gruelling race that begins at sea level under a blanket of purple in the Jacaranda City of Grafton, climbs the 1,100m Gibraltar Range, traverses constant undulations en route to Glen Innes before ending 228km from the coast in the Sapphire City of Inverell.

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2014 G2I combatants Matt Slee and Aaron Watts will return once again, where they will be joined by Ben Carman, Tim Cameron and guest rider Matt Rizutto. In a nice piece of history Saturday will also see the team boast not one but two Inverell-based riders for the first time, with the experienced John Freiberg to be joined by G2I debutant Dylan Sunderland, fresh from his maiden ride in last weekend’s Melbourne to Warnambool.
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One of the more motivated riders in the elite field will no doubt be our very own Matt Slee. In one of the biggest shows of courage and determination we’ve ever seen on two wheels, Matty spent more than half of last year’s G2I in the race-winning breakaway alongside eventual winner Sean Lake, only to have his ambitions cruelled by Di2 shifting troubles which left him stuck in one agonising gear for more than 100km. He was only reeled in by the bunch in the closing stages and still recorded a highly respectable time. Hopefully with a far smoother ride, Matty can exorcise some demons in 2015.
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No gears? No problems for Matty Slee in 2014.
While G2I marks the end of the NRS for 2015 the team will continue to make its presence felt in the final months of the year at the Wollongong and Noosa Crits, as well as the 2015 Tour of Bright.
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100th Melbourne to Warrnambool

This Saturday marks the historic 100th running of the 279km Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic. One of the oldest road races still in existence anywhere in the world (only Liege-Bastogne-Liege has been around longer), AMR Renault Racing is proud to be sending a full squad of seven to the start line in Werribee. Team captain Kris Johnston was our highest place finisher in the 2014 race, and returns along with ‘Warney’ debutant, Toby Orchard, to bolster the nucleus from our hugely successful squad at last week’s Jayco Tour of Tasmania. It will be a tough day in the saddle, but one the guys are really looking forward to.

 

AMR Renault Racing_2015 M2W Squad

NRS season heads south

Buoyed by strong recent showings, AMR Renault Racing returns to the scene of its finest performance of the 2014 National Road Series from October 6-11 for the 2015 Jayco Tour of Tasmania.

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The gruelling 6-stage tour is the jewel in the annual NRS crown and without doubt one of the toughest stage races on the domestic racing calendar, a prospect that has Team Director Russell Menzies brimming with optimism.

“This year’s squad for Tasmania has an excellent blend of youth and experience, with most of the guys having raced there in 2014 as well as being part of last month’s National Capital Tour,” said Team Director Russell Menzies. “But even more importantly we know our guys are race hard, and very much suited to the tougher races like Tasmania. Dylan (1st, U23) and Tim (6th, Elite) rode superbly at the recent NSW Championships near Goulburn – despite both crashing pretty hard on stage two in Canberra. John, Aaron, Matty and Ben have also proven they’re in good shape for what promises to be an unforgiving week of racing. There’s nowhere to hide in Tassie – and as we saw last year that really suits us.”

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In the 2014 Tour of Tasmania, Dylan Sunderland finished 6th in the Young Rider classification, while the team claimed 5th overall, as well as taking out the King of the Mountains jersey. The 2015 race begins next Tuesday with a 2km prologue at the Baskerville Raceway in North Hobart.

AMR Renault Racing squad: 
Dylan Sunderland (U23), Tim Cameron, John Freiberg, Matt Slee, Aaron Watts, Ben Carman (U23). DS: Russell Menzies.

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2015 Jayco Tour of Tasmania:
Prologue: 2km, Baskerville Raceway, Tuesday, October 6
Stage 1: 120km, Strathgordon to New Norfolk, Wednesday, October 7
Stage 2: 106km, Ulverstone to Penguin, Thursday, October 8
Stage 3: 120km, East Devonport to George Town, Friday, October 9
Stage 4: 93km, Launceston to Grindelwald, Saturday, October 10
Stage 5: 48km, Symmons Plains Criterium Sunday, October 11.

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PHOTOS: Carbon Addiction

Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley

AMR Renault Racing will send a strong squad of six to next week’s Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley (NRS) in Victoria.

 

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2015 regulars Tim Cameron, Aaron Watts and U23 Toby Orchard will be at the start line in the famed wine region, together with team captain Kris Johnston who’ll be making his season debut – his first NRS race since becoming a dad earlier this year. The quartet will be joined by two highly-credentialed guest riders from Queensland, John Freiberg and Ben Carman.

After training alongside current team-members Aaron Watts and Dylan Sunderland since a recent move to Inverell, former Budget Forklifts rider John Freiberg brings with him a wealth of NRS and international riding experience that saw him riding across Europe for the elite Italian squad Team Parolin when still just U19. John has also placed in the top 10 at both U23 and Elite level at the Australian National Road Championships. Most recently he’s been competing in the 2015 QLD Road Series.

John Freiberg competing in round one of this year's QLD Road Series.
John Freiberg competing in round one of this year’s QLD Road Series.

Former Queensland U19 Road Champion and National U19 bronze medallist Ben Carman also joins the squad for the trip to Victoria. Still an U23, Ben has raced internationally in both Europe and Asia. He’s also lined up in multiple NRS events over the past few seasons. He’s recently returned from a racing stint overseas and prior to that was also competing in the 2015 QLD Road Series.

Ben Carman, winning.
Ben Carman, winning.

The 4-stage Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley begins next Friday, 21 August, with a short individual time trial at Whitfield, south of Wangaratta.

AMR Renault Racing Squad:
Kris Johnston
Tim Cameron
Aaron Watts
Toby Orchard
John Freiberg (guest)
Ben Carman (guest)

NRS kicks back into gear

The month of August doesn’t just mean winter is on its last legs. It also means the traditional NRS mid-year break is nearly over, with the series set to kick back into gear with a busy second half of the year. According to Team Director, Russell Menzies, the AMR Renault Racing boys are raring to go.

 

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Dylan and Matt have seen plenty of cobbles – and success – over in Belgium (Photo: Heidi Lannoo Photography)

“The season always has a bit of a winter break, but this year it’s been exacerbated by the cancellations of both the Gippsland and Murray tours. That was unfortunate, but the one upside is the opportunity it’s given our guys to train and race hard closer to home,” he said. “Except, of course, for Dylan and Matt who’ve been doing the team proud over in Belgium with multiple top 10s, several podiums and a fine win for Dylan last month. The break’s been a great chance for the guys to sort out any niggles and recharge their batteries for what promises to be a pretty full-on climax to the 2015 domestic season.”

The next NRS outing for AMR Renault Racing will be the 4-stage Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley from 21-23 August, recently upgraded to full NRS status. It’s then all systems go for the National Capital Tour in Canberra.

“Like many of the squads we’ll be using Canberra as a key build-up race for the Tour of Tasmania,” explains Menzies. “We’ll certainly be sending a powerful team down to Tassie, loaded with climbers of course, it’s a real highlight of the season for us. We’ll be defending the polkadot jersey we claimed in 2014, together with top 10 finishes on both the overall and young rider classifications, and top 5 placing on the team’s classification.”

The NRS season then rounds out with two brutal one-day tests in mid-October – the Melbourne to Warrnambool and Grafton to Inverell classics.

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High hopes for FKG Tour of Toowoomba

AMR Renault Racing will make its 2015 National Road Series debut in the FKG Tour of Toowoomba starting tomorrow.

After skipping the first two races on the NRS calendar in Perth and Adelaide, a full squad of seven riders has been assembled for the four-day five-stage tour. With several riders showing excellent early season form, led by kiwi Josh Aldridge and the rapidly-maturing Dylan Sunderland from nearby Inverell, expectations are high for 2015 – especially after the team surprised plenty in its first full season in the NRS in 2014.

“We’re going into Toowoomba with high expectations this year,” said AMR Renault Racing Team Director Russell Menzies. “We’ve been there before, we know the roads, and with a core of really strong and in-form riders I’d go as far as saying we’re looking for a top team position. We did it in Tasmania last year, so that’s not out of reach. Who knows? Maybe even a podium or two, certainly high finishing places on the stages.”

AMR _ Tour of Toowoomba 2015

Looking towards this race and the following week’s Battle on the Border, Menzies sees the versatility within the 2015 squad as a major strength. “We have several genuine cards to play this season, which is a great position to be in. All the guys are stronger for the experience of 2014. Obviously we’re expecting guys like Josh and Dylan to be thereabouts, but even guys like Matt Slee and Tim Cameron. They can really make their presence felt and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see them right in the thick of things. It’s also great to see a young guy like Toby Orchard step up to make his NRS debut, he’s been with us for a couple of seasons now and it’s time for him to show what he’s made of.”

Stage One of the FKG Tour of Toowoomba is an undulating 153km road race from Nobby to Highfields. It will be followed by a double stage day on Friday, with a 9km Individual Time Trial in the morning and a 162km road race in the afternoon before the Tour reaches its finale with another two stages over the weekend, including the now-traditional Sunday criterium around Queens Park.

 

Squad for FKG Tour of Toowoomba:
Joshua Aldridge, Dylan Sunderland, Matt Slee, Aaron Watts, Tim Cameron, Cameron Fraser, Toby Orchard (NRS debut).

Team Managers: Kris Johnston & Peter Sunderland
Team Director: Russell Menzies

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DESTINATION TOOWOOMBA : 2015 OCEANIAS

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AMR Renault Racing Team heads north for this weekend’s 2015 Oceania Road Cycling Championships in Toowoomba brimming with confidence following a solid start to the 2015 road season. With the Elite and U23 road races being staged together it will be the first time the bulk of the NRS squad have raced as a unit in 2015, ensuring strength in numbers and the on-road opportunities those numbers can create.

Riders to watch include kiwi Josh Aldridge, fresh from securing 12th on overall GC at the five-stage New Zealand Cycling Classic, and the quality Under 23 trio of Laurie Groom, Matt Slee and Dylan Sunderland, all of whom raced at the 2015 Mars Australian Road National Championships in Ballarat.

“With the Bay Crits and Nationals, January was a great hit-out for most of the squad and an excellent chance for the younger guys to learn from, and race with, the best,” said AMR Renault Racing Team Director Russell Menzies. “After a freshen up back at home, the boys are fired up for Toowoomba, especially Josh Aldridge and Laurie Groom who had some bad luck with mechanicals in their respective National road races. Dylan (Sunderland) always go well up there too, it’s pretty much his backyard hailing from Inverell, he knows those roads as well as anyone.”

Without doubt the team’s busiest rider at the Oceanias will be Aaron Watts, who will compete on all three days. Friday and Saturday see Watts partnering with dual Paralympic medalist, Bryce Lindores, in the tandem time trial and road races. Then on Sunday it’s the Elite Men’s road race with the rest of his AMR Renault racing team-mates.

AMR Renault Racing Team – 2015 Oceania Road Championships:
Joshua Aldridge, Laurie Groom, Dylan Sunderland, Matt Slee, Cameron Fraser, Toby Orchard, Aaron Watts.

Busy weekend in store for Aaron Watts, who will be racing on all three days including the Para Cycling events with Bryce Lindores.
Busy weekend in store for Aaron Watts, who will be racing on all three days including both Para Cycling events with dual Paralympic medalist, Bryce Lindores.

RACE REPORT: 2015 NZ CYCLE CLASSIC

Last week AMR Renault Racing’s resident kiwi, Josh Aldridge, competed in the 5-stage UCI 2.2 New Zealand Cycle Classic as part of a composite team. This is how he saw the race…

 

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Prologue:
This year 16 teams of five from Australia and NZ formed a field of 80 riders. The tour opened with a 3.5km prologue with a couple of speed bumps and challenging corners. Not exactly my kind of stage but I put myself through a bit over 4.5 minutes of pain and came out in 50th place, 32 seconds down on stage winner Joe Cooper who put 12 seconds into his teammate Fraser Gough in 2nd. Morgan Smith from Subaru Albion finished 3rd.

Stage 1:
Stage 1 was a lumpy 133km from Palmerston North to Ashhurst. After the first sprint a large break of 14 was established. At the time I wasn’t too cornered because Avanti’s Cooper and Gough in yellow and white jerseys were still present in peloton. When nobody chased I realised there were two riders from each of the four strongest teams missing from the peloton and the gap quickly blew out to 3 minutes. Data#3 started working and limited the damage in first half of the stage, but it was obvious they didn’t have the firepower to bring it back. Mid-way through the stage I started attacking with a few others and we eventually formed a strong chase bunch that were prepared to work (most of the time). We got within a minute of the front with 25km to race before our organisation broke down. Nine from original break stayed away and I finished the stage in 24th (back of chase bunch) to move up to 23rd on GC. Christie won stage and Barry of Budget Forklifts took yellow.

Stage 2:
Stage 2 was 139km from Palmerston North to Fielding. I punctured 10km into the stage which ended my hopes of getting into the break. When I re-joined the peloton the break had gone and I found myself doing another headcount, one blue helmet missing (Cooper) one yellow helmet missing (Berry), along with Oram and a few others. Couldn’t work out why Budget Forklifts were riding on the front of the peloton as even though Barry had yellow, Berry was the best placed GC rider in break. Meanwhile some strange politics was going on up the road because a 6 minute gap disappeared in the space of 20km. We caught the break with about 50km to go on the hardest part of the stage and immediately Avanti attacked and the field split again. The end result was 4 Avanti driving the front group of just 10 riders and 4 Budget riders driving the chase group of 18 riders. I was in the chase group and we lost over 3 minutes. Avanti regained 1st and 2nd on GC and Gunman took yellow.

Stage 3:
Stage 3 was 127km, including 5 laps of an 18km circuit before finishing with a 2.5km climb. After two hard stages I decided to have an easy day in the bunch and save my legs for the final climb and tomorrow’s queen stage. I thought it was a pretty safe strategy since the long straights on the circuit were head/tail wind and the short straights were cross winds. I expected Avanti to control the race with their strong position in the GC. I was wrong. Soon after the flag dropped 20+ riders were up the road. I left the chase to other teams and got lucky, the majority of the break came back. With just 3 riders up the road to contest the stage, the majority of the field came into the final climb together. I finished 17th on the stage. Oram won from the break, Gunman retained yellow and I moved to 14th on GC.

Stage 4:
The fourth and final stage (on my birthday) was 164km. After 4 days of sunshine and 30 degree temperatures it rained all day. The roads were greasy and staying on the bike proved the biggest challenge of the day. Apart riders falling off their bikes, including the yellow jersey, the stage more or less followed the normal script with a non-threatening break being allowed to escape and brought back by Avanti by the final climb. The head wind on the final climb discouraged attacks until about 1km from the summit when Oram and Prete escaped. I was caught a bit out of position and had to get around a few riders having difficulties with traction on the descent. Near the bottom the chase stalled so I had a dig and tried to ride across the 10-15 seconds gap. I only made it about half way then soon found myself back in the chase bunch with 3km to go. Prete beat Oram for the stage win and I came 12th, also finishing up 12th on the final GC.

Overall I was relatively happy with the week of racing. Looking forward to the 2015 Oceania Championships in two weeks in Toowoomba, my first official race with AMR Renault Racing.

 

2015 NZ Cycle Classic: Final Results
http://www.cycletournz.com/page2

Next stop: Ballarat

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AMR Renault Racing Team will compete for the first time under its new name at the 2015 Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic from 2-5 January. Two days later the team will assemble in Ballarat for the 2015 Road National Championships.

Wednesday 7 January sees the blistering criteriums staged in the heart of the Ballarat CBD, with the time trials held a day later on Thursday 8th.

The road races take place over the weekend on the testing Mt Buninyong circuit, with the team sending a powerful contingent to the U23 men’s race (132km) on Saturday, and the 183km elite men’s race on Sunday.

FULL SCHEDULE

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