Team Skoda Racing have launched their team for the 2017-2018 season. The team have continued to stay true to their mantra which is to provide a platform for New Zealand riders to reach for bigger and better horizons on an international scene. But this year the team have expanded to virtually the length and breadth of New Zealand and this is reflected in the variety of race experiences they’re looking forward to.
Youth development has become synonymous with Team Skoda Racing and it will continue to be the case for the team which is fielding a bigger squad this year than most. 16 riders were named by Scott Fairbairn at the team’s launch with a combination of the familiar and brand new. The full list of 16 riders is below:
Finn Fisher Black
As Scott Fairbairn explained heading into 2017-2018 the team have the strength in sponsorship, personnel and of course riders to build on the momentum they’ve experienced so far. “Every year we’ve tried to move up a level each time, and this year is definitely the biggest and best line up, sponsors and partners line up and support team as well for us,” Scott said. “We will have 17 riders this year which is a really big deal for us based from Invercargill to Devonport and everywhere in between, Nelson, Palmerston North, Wellington and Cambridge. And also racing everywhere from Invercargill to the Wairarapa, Northland to Tasmania, and we’ve currently got a rider riding in China; so all over the place.”
Recent weeks have really brought home how tough it is for young Kiwis to pursue international success on the road. The UCI World Road Championship squad doesn’t feature a junior women’s team much to the anguish of many junior development riders. The championships will see the New Zealand squad feature two junior men though; and it perhaps sums up just how much of an impact Team Skoda Racing have had on the New Zealand cycling scene that both come from their stable of riders. Oscar Elworthy and Ben Hamilton will race both the road race and time trial events in Bergen.
Speaking of the team’s purpose Fairbairn said, “We were established for a number of key reasons. One is there is a real genuine lack of pathway for road riders in New Zealand to go to bigger and better on an international standard, and in the last 18 months seeing some of the results of George Bennett and Jack Bauer and a number of other riders have really shown the quality of talent that belongs in New Zealand and needs to be exported onto the world stage. And we hope that we in some small way can facilitate that with our riders and also try and lift the standard of everyone else’s racing and team contributions around the country as well.”
The depth of the team is impressive with new signing Bradley Leitch among those to already have international experience jumping off the back of racing the U23 Giro d’Italia with fellow Team Skoda Racing rider Alex West. “We had a good three months away from home, raced the U23 Giro d’Italia an 8-day, 9-stage race against the best riders in the world. The dude who won ended up signing with Team Sky for 3 years, so that puts into [context] the type of dudes we were racing against. We were a very young team with three first-year U23s (18 years old) against the best U23 year olds in the world. Racing was hard, very hard, a lot different to New Zealand, and it was a real good experience.”
“Signing with Skoda is a pretty awesome outfit. I’m looking forward to teeing off with some of the guys at the Tour of Southland; it’s a very prestigious race in New Zealand and one of the hardest in the Southern Hemisphere so it will be good to start that.”
While the team is excited about being a springboard for the next crop of Kiwi talent they’re also committed to providing an environment where professional development and be benefited from across the board. “The other key thing [for us] is trying to provide an environment where the riders come first and their development is really important,” Fairbairn said. “We’ve had a team meeting [on Sunday] and had Drug Free Sport come and talk to us which is a big deal for our sport. But also in day-to-day development of riders they don’t get access to these kind of learning opportunities that are really important and we’re involved in, in trying to build forward. And also giving them as much gear and cool stuff as possible because everyone loves new toys!”