The bitter taste is subsiding and Henk Vogels will soon be back in the United States with a new-look V Australia team for 2011. Vogels revealed the squad’s roster Thursday and gave his thoughts on returning to race in the U.S. three months after Pegasus Racing collapsed.
“I don’t think you’re going to see more motivated boys than you’re going to see this year out of these guys,” Vogels told VeloNews. “I think they’ve been the best team in America the last two years — stage racing, sprinting, all-around strength. These guys that missed out on the ProTour are just going to be that much hungrier and we have a lot of young guys, too, and that brings an element of motivation in itself.”
Jonathan Cantwell AUS
Bernie Sulzberger AUS
Aaron Kemps AUS
Johnnie Walker AUS
Ben Kersten AUS
Scott Law AUS
Cameron Peterson AUS
Zach Davies USA
Nick Walker AUS
Darren Rolfe AUS
Sean Sullivan AUS
Chris Winn AUS
Michael Freiberg AUS
Taylor Shelden USA
Hayden Brooks AUS
Pegasus Racing chief Chris White tapped Vogels, a former top classics rider and the face of the Fly V Australia program since 2009, to head what he hoped would be Australia’s first top division team this season. When that squad folded in late 2010, Vogels resumed his role with the U.S.-focused Continental squad and began the tough work of juggling roster places between riders contracted with V Australia and Pegasus.
Jonathan Cantwell and Darren Rolfe will headline V Australia a year after Ben Day led the team to a sweep of the VeloNews end-of-season awards for North American men’s road racing. Sprinter of the year Cantwell ticked off double-digit wins in 2010, including a three-week streak in July and August. Rolfe, on the other hand, was one of Day’s top domestiques and a capable opportunist himself.
One thing the squad does lack is a pure climber. Darren Lill and Phil Zajicek won back-to-back Gila Monster stages for the squad in 2009 and 2010, but both were ruled out of the roster this season due to UCI age restrictions. With older riders like Cantwell and Bernard Sulzberger returning to the squad, space for riders aged 28 and older was limited.
“Last year we had Darren Lill, Phil Zajicek, Jai Crawford as our go-to climbers and this year we don’t have a specialized climber,” said Vogels. “It’s a pity, but it’s the way it’s worked out.”
Former Footon-Servetto ProTour rider Johnnie Walker will take on some of the load in the mountains. Other new riders joining the squad include team pursuit Commonwealth record holder Michael Freiberg, Boulder, Colorado-based Chris Winn and Vogels’ former Toyota United teammate Sean Sullivan.
“Chris was third in Stillwater (criterium at Nature Valley), which shows you he’s really got the stuff,” said Vogels. “Johnnie doesn’t know the U.S. scene, but I predict him as being someone who can vie to be a very good stage race rider this year. He’s the caliber of rider who can ride the medium to long-range climbs and sprint, similar to Sulzberger.”
Vogels expected racing in the States to be more open and aggressive with the departure of UnitedHealthcare and Rory Sutherland to Europe and Day’s move to Kenda-Geargrinder. After a trip to the OCBC Cycle Singapore criterium with Cantwell and defending champ Ben Kersten next month, the team will debut at the San Dimas Stage Race and Redlands Classic before making a run at the bulk of the National Racing Calendar stage races and criteriums. The tours of the Gila, Beauce and Utah, as well as the Philadelphia International Championship are among the events on the team’s calendar. Vogels said that the team won’t chase the NRC title, “but it just takes care of itself when you do well.”