2015 ORICA-AIS WRAP: European breakthroughs & a powerful momentum shift

Thu 15 Oct 2015

European breakthroughs and a wide spread of rider victories highlighted ORICA-AIS’ fourth season in the professional peloton.

Two of the longest serving members and most valuable contributors to the outfit’s success, Amanda Spratt and Gracie Elvin, both enjoyed their first professional victory in European throughout the 2015 season.

Their success joined that of proven performer and Swedish champion Emma Johansson and debutant Lizzie Williams who also rode themselves onto the top step of the podium in the team’s 16 recorded victories.

“We had a really broad spectrum of results and riders achieving those results in 2015 and that’s probably the highlight for us,” sport director Gene Bates said. “It was a big goal of ours coming into this season and something we worked hard on in November and December last year.”

“Making the riders a bit more accountable certainly helped and making sure we had numbers in the finals, which is where we really suffered last year. The girls really turned that around this year.”

For all the positives, it’s hard to imagine the rough start that plagued ORICA-AIS early in the season.

The team recorded various victories in unclassified Australian events in January and via individual performances by Katrin Garfoot for the national team in February, but it would take until the last weekend May before the outfit recorded it’s first official victory in ORICA-AIS colours.

“It was definitely a slower and rougher start than we had hoped for,” Bates said. “We had a lot of illness and injury which kept some riders out of racing completely, plus we had some new riders on the team and, not sugar coating it at all, it just really didn’t gel well for us in the spring.”

“We stepped away from it all, had a good break and a great training camp and we manage to find some momentum. From that point on we were really pleased with the way the girls performed, right from May until the end of the season.”

A double-winning weekend, at SwissEver GP Cham-Hagendorn and Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik, in May kick started a positive remainder of the season.

“On the first weekend of racing back after our break we took two victories and a second place in three days, with three different riders,” Bates remembered. “That really kick started things again for us.”

“From that point on the highlights continued. An overall win in Thuringen with Emma and stage victory from Gracie in the same Tour, right through to the overall win in Trophée d'Or Féminin with Rachel Neylan and probably capped off with Katrin’s fourth place in the time trial at the world championships.”

General manager Shayne Bannan credited the riders and staff on the ability to turn the season around.

“For the organisation, one of the most pleasing things to come out of ORICA-AIS’ 2015 season was their show of character,” Bannan said. “Winning with momentum is one thing, but to band together and turn it around after a rough period is even more difficult.” 

“Credit to Gene and the girls for that, and also for a number of breakthrough performances through out the year.  They set out last year working toward rider accountability and to see so many of the girls post results this year is a direct reflection of that focus.”

Some (of the many) highlights of ORICA-AIS’ 2015 season:

Winning weekend

Straight out of a mid-season camp, ORICA-AIS turned their 2015 season around with two victories and a second place in late May.

Debutant Lizzie Williams posted the first breakthrough at SwissEver GP Cham-Hagendorn before Gracie Elvin followed suit with a second win at Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik just hours later.

Euro excellence

After seasons of valuable support, the first European victories of Gracie Elvin and Amanda Spratt were particular highlights of the 2015 season.

Elvin was the first to breakthrough at Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik on the team’s winning weekend in May, whilst Spratt got her reward at Giro del Trentino Alto Adige – Südtirol in June.

Lizzie Williams’ victory at SwissEver GP Cham-Hagendorn was also her first in Europe, capping off a successful debut season with the outfit.

Thuringen throw-down

If there was one day that best captured the ORICA-AIS mantra, it was the final stage of Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen to give Emma Johansson her third overall title.

Johansson and Amanda Spratt started 30 and 32seconds behind race leader Lisa Brennauer (Velocio-SRAM) going into the final stage and with repeated, alternate attacking, together the pair got the better of Brennauer who succumbed to the ORICA-AIS pressure.

World warrior

After a season of hard work and hard lessons courtesy of her time trial bike, Katrin Garfoot pulled it all together on the biggest stage at the UCI Road Cycling World Championships in Richmond.

The 33-year-old threw herself in the medal mix, crossing the line in a provisional second place within ten seconds of leader and eventual winner Linda Villiumsen. Eventually Garfoot settled for an impressive fourth place, just four seconds off the podium.