Chasing the sun, Down Under!

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A true Australian like Nathan Haas thinks racing in the sun is always the way to go, so it’s no wonder that an idea germinated as early as last July that come January, he should be racing in Australia’s summer sunshine. With this mindset, the chance to race the Bay Crits in Geelong January 1 to 3 was put in place, with teammates Marco Haller and Alex Dowsett eager to share in the fun, but first there was some planning to do…

The Bay Crits series is not a UCI sanctioned race, so it was decided to race under the banner of KATUSHA Sports rather than KATUSHA ALPECIN, with a special edition kit to outfit the team, sponsored by our Autralian retailer, PUSHY'S.

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With 2 more spaces available in the team, and the race being open to amateurs... We, along with Cyclist Australia and PUSHY’S. launched a contest to find a fourth teammate for Nathan, Marco and Alex. More than 100 entries poured in, and with so many qualified wannabes, it was decided that not one, but two, riders would join the KATUSHA Sports team...

Welcome to the big leagues Dylan McKenna and Tom Chapman.

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Nathan headed home to Australia before Christmas, along with his partner and team press officer Laura; Alex and Marco arrived on December 29. After two days of training, the group flew to Melbourne to celebrate New Year’s Eve as the last day of the 2018 cycling season. With minimal space in the AirBnB and four very expensive bikes to secure, a comedy of errors followed as the group tried unsuccessfully to arrive at the proper floor with bikes in hand, before finally having to convince management that they weren’t thieves and needed some help to cram into the small flat. Marco planned ahead for the days to come and washed some laundry, hanging it on the balcony to dry. A NYE dinner of sushi followed and some late night Melbourne celebrating… not really, everyone fell asleep at 11PM, training and traveling taking a toll.

Packing up on the morning of January 1, Marco found an unwelcome addition to his laundry – someone from the balcony above perhaps did too much celebrating and vomited over the side, right onto Marco’s clothes. Ugh, time to re-wash and catch the train to Geelong to meet up with Dylan and Tom. An easy spin warmed up the legs with racing on a circuit around Geelong’s eastern gardens at 6PM. After only 15 minutes of racing, an attack went clear and Marco put himself in the group. It was a successful breakaway with Marco sprinting for the win – a great start to 2019.

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January 2 began with an early two-hour training ride, and time enough for a coffee break at the well-known Cartel Coffee Roasters, before heading to stage 2 of the Bay Crits. With Marco wearing the leader’s jersey, the team took their responsibility in hand to control the race on the infamous hot dog circuit. Chasing the breaks was no easy feat and left only a dozen or so riders to contest the sprint, but Marco was in that group and sprinted for third place, holding onto the race lead.

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January 3 brought the last day of racing. Dylan and Tom took the car to Williamstown while Nathan, Marco and Alex joined other WorldTour riders to travel via bikes the 80km, arriving in time for the 2PM start. With a third day of racing also came tired legs, making attacks easier to control. Tom and Dylan really wanted to be part of a winning team and rode aggressively to protect their leader. With time calculations to win all sorted in their minds, the boys knew Marco needed to place top 5 to win the overall. Nathan put Marco on Caleb Ewan’s wheel and slotted in behind to protect his position, resulting in Haller taking 4th place and Haas right behind him in fifth.

Overall results – podium sweep with general classification, sprint and team awards all going to KATUSHA Sports.

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Dylan’s grandparents lived only 2km away so post-race was time for a celebratory dinner with real Australian fare. It was a sweeping success in the Australian sunshine with lasting memories for Dylan and Tom who earned the right to race with top level pros for three glorious days to kick off the new year.

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Photos by The Peloton Brief