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Nathan Haas' road to the top is a tough ride

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It is far from being a given that this year's Subaru National Road Series (NRS) will uncover a rough diamond of the ilk of Nathan Haas, warns Cycling Australia national performance director Kevin Tabotta. For those with short memories, Haas dominated the series in 2011 and was rewarded with a ProTour contract this year with Garmin-Barracuda.

While Tabotta lauds the value of the NRS he believes that most riders wanting to join the top league will need a stepping stone to make the move up. But he stresses that the transition made by Haas who rode with the Genesys-Wealth Advisers team before joining Garmin-Barracuda will still be a rarity.

Tabotta also told the Herald that he regards moves like those by fellow Australians Richie Porte and Steele Van Hoff are "a more normal approach."

Porte, who now races for the British Sky team, is a former triathlete and rode on the Tasmanian Praties team from 2008-2009 before heading to Italy where he raced for the amateur Monsummanese Grassi Mapei team in Italy and then stepped up to the Saxo Bank World Tour team in 2010.

Van Hoff also left Genesys-Wealth Advisers after last season, but he joined the Chipotle development team that is owned by Garmin-Barracuda.

Tabotta said it also helped that the infant careers of Haas and Van Hoff were in safe hands with Allan Peiper, a national selector, also being the US Garmin-Barracuda team's head sports director. In such a situation, Tabotta said: "You are on a winner ... but not all the teams operate that way."


With this year's series under way after the overall win by Mark O'Brien (Budget Forklifts) in the first of 12 events - the Mersey Valley Tour in Tasmania last weekend - Tabotta said: "The NRS is underestimated even by ourselves sometimes for what it's capacity is to bring up some good bike riders.

"But I think it is still critical - where it is possible - to get a stepping stone from the NRS to Europe. Going straight into World Tour [team] will always be a big challenge out of NRS. Nathan Haas has done it ... but I dont think that is the normal pathway. [You need] a step in between in most cases. But in exceptional cases, like [with Haas], they have proven after they have dominated the NRS that they can make that transition. The key is that they will hopefully have a really good World Tour level team that will help develop them over 18 months before they are ready for the big races.

Tabotta believes it will still take time for the NRS to reach its potential. But he is confident its extension to nine months will pay off. "We want it to get more professional and more consistent through the season rather than being packaged in a very intense period - most of that has been in between July to October. We are trying to spread that series over nine months. That is where CA is trying to take [the NRS] over the next two to three years.

As for fears the NRS will be dominated by teams with the budgets to compete in all the events - leaving smaller team to pick and chose - Tabotta believes that the natural evolution of teams into developing racing circuits such as in Asia will open opportunities for the NRS spoils to be shared.

"I don't think there is a big drama because if you look at Genesys-Wealth Advisers, they had a dominant team but they will look forward and say, 'What's next?' Then they will punch into Asia. They cant win every race and will have to decide where they want to focus their efforts," Tabotta said.

"That will be good because it means other teams will get a chance to develop underneath, and I think you saw that with Drapac last year. They were not as dominant in the local series and the reason for that is that they hit Asia a lot harder last year. That will be the natural progression for Genesys. The Oceanic and Asian road series is something that will develop over the next three to five years. The UCI [Union Cycliste Internationale] have always stated that they want growth there. The amount of races that have opened up in Asia in the last five years ... there is quite a good level."

Tabotta said CA will also increase its push into Asia by sending more Under 23 teams there of riders from the NRS or those based in Europe.

Twitter: @rupertguinness

National Road Series

Apr 21 - 22 Apr Mersey Valley Tour (Tas)
Jun 14 - 17 Jun FKG Tour of Toowoomba (Qld)
Jun 21 - 24 Jun North Western Tour (NSW)
Aug 1 - 5 Aug Tour of Gippsland (Vic)
Aug 15 - 19 Aug Tour of the South Coast (Vic)
Sep 2 - 9 Sep Tour of the Murray (Vic)
Sep 16 -Goulburn to Sydney (NSW)
Sep 30 - Launceston to New Norfolk (Tas)
Oct 2 - 7 Oct Tour of Tasmania (Tas)
Oct 13 Melbourne to Warrnambool (Vic)
Oct 14 Shipwreck Coast (Vic)
Oct 27 Grafton to Inverell (NSW)

Apr 21 - 22 Apr Mersey Valley Tour (Tas)
May 4 - 7 May Battle on the Border (NSW)
Jun 21 - 24 Jun North Western Tour (NSW)
Jul 6 - 8 -Jul Canberra Women's Tour (ACT)
Oct 14 - Shipwreck Coast (Vic).