With Emma Johannson and Sungeun Gu recently announced as new signings to ORICA-AIS, the Australian outfit is proud to share its complete line-up for the 2013 season. Alongside Johannson and Gu, Annette Edmondson and Gracie Elvin join returning riders Tiffany Cromwell, Loes Gunnewijk, Shara Gillow, Melissa Hoskins, Jessie MacLean, and Amanda Spratt to comprise the 10-rider squad.
“Before we discuss the new squad, I want to extend sincere thanks and wish all the best in the future to Judith Arndt, Alex Rhodes, Claudia Häusler, Linda Villumsen and Rowena Fry,” said Sports Director David McPartland. “Our first season was a dream year from our perspective, and in large part, this was due to the leadership and camaraderie on display by our entire team. Judith, Alex, Linda and Row now move on to things outside of cycling. They do so after having left a lasting impact on our team.”
McPartland will look towards Emma Johannson to fill the void in leadership left by the retirement of Arndt and Villumsen.
“We sought out a rider with a lot of experience who could lead some of our younger Australians,” noted McPartland. “Straightaway we identified Emma as a natural fit for this role.”
Elvin and Edmondson will look to Johansson and their more experienced Australian teammates to guide them during their first professional road season.
“Gracie is an exciting signing,” McPartland said. “She came to us through the Australian Institute of Sport [AIS] program. The AIS team is a feeder team for ORICA-AIS. When we started the team from scratch last year, several of the riders we had signed had ridden for the AIS at some point, but Gracie is the first rider we can point to and say she was 100% developed in the AIS program and has now come to us to become a professional.”
The 24-year-old rose through the amateur ranks quickly after transitioning from mountain biking to road cycling. She earned a spot in the AIS program last year after showing promise in Europe during the 2010 season.
“Gracie funded a trip to Europe in 2010,” explained McPartland. “She went over there by herself and made all the arrangements herself. It showed a lot of character and promise. She was selected as part of the AIS group the following year because of the tenacity and grit she had shown. She proved her worth last season not only in gaining more experience but in garnering solid results.”
Elvin finished second at Omloop van Borsele and won the road race and finished second in the individual time trial at the Oceania Cycling Championships last year.
Where Edmondson lacks Elvin’s road experience, her accomplishments on the track indicate great promise. Joining ORICA-AIS through the AIS track endurance program, Edmondson’s track results, including a bronze medal in the Omnium at the London Olympics, suggest a real strength in sprinting.
“She’s certainly an upcoming sprinter with a huge future ahead of her,” said McPartland. “She’s undeniably talented, and while her obvious strength is in the sprints, I suspect she may develop into more of an all-rounder. A few years ago, I watched her race in the Czech Republic over an undulating to moderately hilly course, and I was surprised at how good she was. She’ll be an exciting one to watch develop this year.”
McPartland expects Edmondson to follow a similar program to Hoskins. Both riders will balance their track obligations with a road programme.
“Nettie will do what we saw Mel do this year,” explained McPartland. “We’ll have both girls at the very beginning of the season before they turn their attention to track through Track Worlds. Then, they’ll came back to us for the rest of the season.”
McPartland’s equally excited about the opportunities that await his returning riders. He expects Cromwell and MacLean, in particular, to step up in their second year with the team.
“I’m looking forward to seeing further development in our riders that are coming back for their second year,” said McPartland. “I anticipate moving them up the ladder, so to speak, and giving them more responsibility and chances in certain races. Jess MacLean and Tiff Cromwell, especially, will build on their successes from our first year. With Judith, Alex and Linda gone, it will be good to see Spratty, Shara and Loes assume more leadership within the team."
McPartland proudly points to a handful of highlights in what was an undeniably successful maiden season.
“We went to Qatar, a flat race, without a pure sprinter and we won the whole tour with Judith,” recalled McPartland. “That was an awesome early show of team strength. We had to ride as a team to secure that victory. It was our first international race, and it was the perfect way to start.”
“Tour of Flanders is another highlight,” McPartland continued. “It is the most famous one-day race on the women’s calendar, and the team fully supported Judith’s ambitions. China with Mel was satisfying. The Tour of Chongming was one of her first races with us after coming in from a break after Track Worlds. She won the overall against a world class field and went on to take second in the China World Cup.”
The results continued throughout the season, with Cromwell and Arndt supplying important victories.
“Tiff’s stage win at the Giro was impressive,” noted McPartland. “She worked hard all year for her teammates, and I was so happy that she got a result for herself. I was also thrilled for Judith when she won Thüringen. It was perfect for a German rider to win the overall at a German race in her last season.”
Although pleased with the team’s silver medal in the team time trial at the Road World Championships, McPartland sees the discipline as one obvious area for improvement in the team’s second season.
“We already have strategies in place in the hopes to see improvement in the team time trial next year,” said McPartland. “We did a super job this year, but there’s room for improvement. We’ll be training differently and hoping for an even better outcome than we saw this year.”
McPartland expects the team to build on the successful foundation it established during its first season.
“I want to see this team perform in all areas,” said McPartland. “We’re not a team that will focus exclusively on riding for the overall in a tour or building a sprint train with big lead-outs only for our sprinters. We’re a versatile team. We have sprinters who can time trial. We have climbers who can do lead-outs and we have domestiques who know how to take opportunities for themselves. That’s what we’re all about. I can afford to send our girls to different races all year and count on them to demonstrate that we are team that can perform well in flat races, hilly races and team time trials. We can win stages and overalls and one day events.”
“We’re a team that offers opportunities to all of our riders,” McPartland added. “There’s something for everyone we’ve signed this year.”
The ten rider squad may seek one additional rider at the mid-point of the season to compliment the well-rounded squad ORICA-AIS has assembled.
ORICA-AIS 2013 roster: