ORICA-AIS Wrap: Wide spread victories and individual breakthroughsMon 7 Nov 2016
ORICA-AIS concluded a successful 2016 season having achieved a variety of victories in their fifth year in the professional peloton.
The wide spread victories, coming from eight different riders, across a broad spectrum of races was a real highlight for sport director Gene Bates.
"This year has been a great step up from previous seasons and one we have fostered to grow towards," Bates said. "Out of all the victories for the team in 2016, we had eight different race winners."
"This was something we spoke about as a group back in November of last year and something we wanted to focus on for 2016. It has been fantastic to see all of riders make big improvements and all develop into winners in their own right."
The team launched into 2016 on a high, achieving overall wins in the Michelton Bay Cycling Classic (Gracie Elvin) and the Santos Tour Down Under (Katrin Garfoot), along with two Australian championship titles (Amanda Spratt - road race and Garfoot -time trial).
"We were quite focused leading into this season, the riders and staff really wanted to start our season on the right foot and strongly," Bates continued. "We were confident that by being successful in Australia, that this momentum would carry on to a successful spring in Europe."
As the team headed overseas they continued their successful momentum instantly at the Ladies Tour of Qatar with an unexpected stage victory from in-form Garfoot. From there the team remained consistent with strong performances throughout the season.
"This momentum not only carried over into the spring, but also throughout the European Summer," Bates continued. "This level of focus and commitment is something we are very keen to carry on for 2017."
Debutant Annemiek van Vleuten became a valuable member of the Australian outfit, contributing to much of the success as an experienced team leader, personally excelling in the individual time trial and prologue events.
In the early Classic races Van Vleuten worked well alongside Elvin, with the pair often featuring in the final of races together enabling Elvin defend her Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik victory and become the first Australian women on the podium in a Women’s WorldTour race.
"One of our strengths as a team is how we are able to work together, especially in stressful and pressure situations," said Bates. "It is nice to go into the final of a race knowing that the riders will give 100% for each other and achieving a team result.
"It really is a pleasure to see teammates as happy for each other winning, as they are for themselves. I think this is a huge part of our success this season."
In the second half of the season, former criterium champion Sarah Roy claimed her first ever victory for ORICA-AIS along with 2016 debutant Loren Rowney. The two rapid riders established themselves as consistent sprinters for the team regularly placing highly in bunch sprints.
The strong performances continued as the longest serving member of the Australian outfit, Spratt had a breakthrough season stepping up into the role of one of the leaders in the team.
"Across the board we have seen riders take big steps in overall improvement and achieve results and consistency that they haven’t achieved before," Bates said.
"We want our riders to operate to the best of their abilities," Bates went on. "I think this year the girls have shown many great examples of this such as Spratt finishing second overall in Thuringen Rundfahrt, Roy getting her first European victory, amongst many more."
"We try and foster an environment that encourages the riders to develop and improve every season, regardless of how long or how experienced they may be."
Look back at some of the highlights for ORICA-AIS in 2016:
First time victories
Rowney, Roy and Van Vleuten all claimed their first ever victories in ORICA-AIS colours, proving the diversity of the Australian squad as eight riders contributed to the team’s 19 wins.
A motivated Elvin handled pressure well to return to Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik as the number one rider and claim her second consecutive victory in the one-day Belgian race, relishing on the cobbles and in harsh European weather.
Time trials, stage races and one-day wins
Garfoot excelled in 2016 winning a variety of races from the Australian time trial championship to the general classification victory at the Santos Women's Tour then soloing to victory in Qatar. The 35-year-old rounded it all off with a hard fought bronze medal in the UCI World Championship Time Trial.
The 2016 season saw many team members step up to become consistent high finishers in the elite women's peloton. Spratt shone on the hilly days often finding herself in a select group in the finals of races in position to challenge for the victory like on stage three of the Aviva Women's Tour. The Australian champion also continued to step up as a leader within the team.
Highlighting the strength and depth of the team this year, four of the Australian riders, Elvin, Neylan, Garfoot and Spratt were selected to represent their country at the Rio Olympic Games along with Van Vleuten racing for the Netherlands.
Van Vleuten rode herself into contention in the closing kilometres of the road race only to suffer a bad crash. Thankfully she recovered and returned to racing in the best possible fashion – with a win.
ORICA-AIS 2016 victories:
Chrono Champenois - Trophée Européen - GARFOOT
Oceania Continental Championships WE - ITT - GARFOOT
Ladies Tour of Qatar - Stage 2 - GARFOOT
Santos Women's Tour General Classification - GARFOOT
Santos Women's Tour - Stage 1 - GARFOOT
National Championships Australia ITT - GARFOOT
National Championships Netherlands WE - ITT- VAN VLEUTEN
Auensteiner - Radsporttage - Stage 2a (ITT) - VAN VLEUTEN
Festival Elsy Jacobs - Prologue - VAN VLEUTEN
Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen - Stage 6 - SPRATT
Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race - SPRATT
National Championships Australia Road Race - SPRATT
Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik - ELVIN
Michelton Bay Cycling Classic General Classification - ELVIN
Michelton Bay Cycling Classic - Stage 1 - ELVIN
Santos Women's Tour - Stage 3 - WILLIAMS
Michelton Bay Cycling Classic Stage 3- WILLIAMS
Boels Rental Ladies Tour - Stage 4 - ROY
Tour de Feminin - Stage 2 - ROWNEY
Racing with the national team:
Grand Prix de Plumelec-Morbihan Dames - NEYLAN
Lotto Belgium Tour General Classification - VAN VLEUTEN
Lotto Belgium Tour - Stage 3 - VAN VLEUTEN
Lotto Belgium Tour - Prologue - VAN VLEUTEN
World Championships - ITT- GARFOOT