It has been an unusual Queensland Road Team Series (QRTS) in 2016 with the event under a cloud until early in the year. Just when the spectre of a year without elite team's racing looked to be on the cards, a shorter format four round event heavily shaped towards crit racing was presented. Gone were the back to back road stages of previous years, replaced with Team Time Trials and multiple criteriums with heats and finals. It seemed on paper to be a year where the series has taken a small step backwards. On a personal level, I also missed visiting the country towns this year such as Kingaroy and Gympie where the locals seem more enthused about the event and the benefit to the local tourist trade that it brings.
Despite the shift the series has taken this year, the racing was still intense and consistently enjoyable. Our squad was our most age diverse ever with 24 years separating our youngest to oldest rider. The new faces in our team lifted the overall strength of the squad although the varied approach to training and racing still provides a nice touch of reality.
Our stand out rider for the entire series was Mitch Neumann who has been a model of consistency across the entire event. His Individual Time Trial win up Montville in round 4 was most definitely the highlight, with the overall round honours also a huge bonus. I could spend many paragraphs regaling the merits of his endeavours for us in 2016 but those who know Mitch, know this would make him uncomfortable. 7th overall for the series was a fine tribute though and one we would like to build on for 2017 (if he indeed can survive another year at Cobra9 Intebuild Racing).
The other members of the team have also put out credible and in many cases, career best efforts in 2016. The ageless Kurty seems to find another level each year alongside Adam who also has stepped it up despite the advancing years. Josh Prete who arrived in our team, and at The Pedaler in 2016 has been a great influence on all the lads and especially on our attitude towards our racing. Rather then concerning ourselves with sitting in and surviving till the pointy end of the race, the approach has shifted towards trying to win or get a result, even if that means losing.
A few member of the team staff need to be singled out for high praise. Brett from Megabake again has been a huge supporter and all round good guy. He adds so much to the atmosphere around the team at races, and his Cobra9 TV episodes (seen only by the closed group sorry) are as famous as his taste for the rum.
Adrian Duffy QC is another supporter who adds mirth and depth of personal experience to the whole team. I'd like to provide an element of insight into his musings however doing so may end his professional career. He loves the team, the boys and the Cobra9 mentality and we love having him at races. His chosen nightcap trends towards the reds.
Luke Stenner is another famous part of the Cobra9 Intebuild fabric who is essentially behind the entire race weekend operation. Notoriously detailed run sheets and time tables are his strength. The rum though, may be his weakness. That and white shirts. His role gets bigger every year and despite a crowded work/life schedule, he keeps getting it done. It has been a pleasure being 'beside' you all year mate.
The last sneaky member who always flies under the radar is Dugs Macarthur. I spell his name wrong more often then any other rider yet he keeps showing up. Dugs essentially runs the team for us away from races and makes all the tough decisions. He also races and has some of the best calf muscles known to South East Queensland. We are already working on the 2017 team and race calendar and the team simply wouldn't exist without him. I probably should pay him.
This year we also had a quality bunch of Sponsors. Intebuild and Cobra9 again provided essential funding support alongside a family of riders who follow the team week in and week out. This family has been running strong for over 10 years and the Elite Racing component is a babe in arms compared to the established originals. The Intebuild founding group has a vast amount of experience and business acumen that has been wonderful for the younger riders to experience. Hopefully the period of time the new members spend riding with our team will leave them better for the experience.
Attaquer again has backed us to the hilt with clothing. The quality of the kit is remarkable and the feel and ride comfort is unsurpassed. For a brand that earned their stripes with cutting designs and edgy motifs, the functionality and durability of the garments is impressive. We can't wait to unveil the design with Attaquer for next season.
POC again has provided safety gear which is visually appealing while still being at the cutting edge of design. We have now racked up 6 broken Octal MIPS for 2016 without a single concussion or neck injury. We also get to look bling in the varied eye wear offerings, time trial overshoes and assorted wet weather kit.
2016 marked our emergence with Colnago as well. Whilst organising a fleet of top end Nagos was a risk, the bikes are just superb. It is very rare that every rider on the team is enamoured with their rig. The C60s are immense machines, and the V1rs have proven to be wonderful race weapons. The diverse range of colours has snapped many necks at the brew shops of Brisbane. Hopefully we can maintain the rage with the Italian Stallions in 2017. Obviously, The Pedaler will do its bit providing the underlying Service Course for the Squad again in 2017.
4Shaw again has maintained our sock game in 2016. While the focus from Dion has moved a little into the world of the Barbershop at the moment, there is no questioning the quality and styling of his socks. He is also a Tassie legend through and through.
Megabake and Brett Ledger are more then sponsors but it would be remiss not to describe the virtues of their products. The Megabake bar range has been the staple race diet of every rider for the entire year and has proven again to the perfect race fuel. The quality, individually sourced ingredients paired with Brett's OCD regarding his recipes guarantees a certain quality. A new product to the line, the Megabake Museli will be one to watch in 2017.
Finally, Wurkstand. Almost everyone knows the melancholic footnote to our season has been the loss of the founder to this local company. Steve Small will always be in our corner, and every C9 kit produced going forward will honour the big man. We also lost team rider JJ to depression this year and these pair of tragedies has coloured the 2016 season for all involved.
Despite these equally horrific happenings, the members of Cobra9 Intebuild racing have soldiered on all year. No one has forgotten these team members. We talk and laugh regularly at the antics of both of these special guys when on bunch rides or at events away from home. Indeed it would seem that on occasion, they are both still with us and I hope that this remains the case well into the future. As long as their memory lives on, then they live on.
What's next? Well, a few extra kilograms and schooners of beer in the short term. 2017 promises a lot although with the underlying structure around elite racing in Australia still uncertain, it looks like another year where hedging your bets may prove important. Nationals in January will again be the kick start to the season and then on it goes. We'll keep you posted.