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by Aaron S. Lee
June 18, 2015
Photography by Daebong Kim
Patrick Bevin burst on to the radar of many Australian cycling fans when he dominated the second half of the 2014 National Road Series (NRS) with the Search2Retain team. Since then the 24-year-old New Zealander has joined Avanti Racing and enjoyed further success in the NRS, not to mention his victories in the Oceania and Asia Tours. Aaron S. Lee caught up with Bevin at the recent Tour de Korea where the latter found himself on the podium on all but one of the race’s eight stages.
SEOUL — Patrick Bevin (Avanti Racing Team) has arrived. After all, nabbing seven podiums at the Tour de Korea — including five second-place finishes and a stage win — and second overall behind race winner Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) has a tendency to grab people’s attention.
“I’m sure there are two or three teams interested from the WorldTour and why wouldn’t they be?”, Orica-GreenEdge team manager Shayne Bannan told CyclingTips following the final stage of the eight-day 2015 Tour of Korea on Sunday. “He’s pretty impressive this week, as well as the Sun Tour earlier this year.
“Hopefully, he is one that we will see in the WorldTour next year.”
GreenEdge sports director David McPartland agrees with Bannan.
“I’ve been impressed with him all week,” McPartland told CyclingTips. “To be sprinting with Caleb and beating him one-on-one [on stage 4] is very impressive. It’s only a matter of time that he gets picked up by one of the big teams as he deserves to be riding WorldTour.”
Orica-GreenEge aren’t the only ones to take notice of the 24-year-old Kiwi.
“I didn’t know much about Bevin coming into Korea,” said Australian dual Olympic gold medallist Graeme Brown of Drapac Pro Cycling, who spent nearly a decade riding for Rabobank-turned-Blanco-turned-Belkin. “But what I do know from what I’ve seen this week is that he should be riding WorldTour right now.”
Bevin bravely led his New Zealand-registered Continental squad all week, eclipsing three Pro-Continental teams — Drapac Pro Cycling, Nippo-Vini Fantini and Team Novo Nordisk — and holding his own against Australian WorldTour powerhouse Orica-GreenEdge – including their 20-year-old Aussie sprinting sensation Ewan.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Bevin admitted to CyclingTips following the race. “When you come up against a team with the might of Orica-GreenEdge and take them so close it’s good, but obviously very disappointing to come second because no one remembers second place.
“We are here to race and to win,” he continued. “We don’t care about being Continental against WorldTour – it’s irrelevant. Once the flag drops it’s guys on bikes and it doesn’t matter how big your pay check is or how flashy your team bus is – it doesn’t matter.”
For the past five years, the Avanti Racing Team has been collecting Australian National Road Series titles and churning out ProTour riders including Richie Porte (Sky), Nathan Earle (Sky), Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin), Campbell Flakemore (BMC Racing Team), Jack Haig (Orica-GreenEdge), Steele von Hoff (formerly Garmin-Sharp, now NFTO) and Will Clarke (formerly Team Argos-Shimano, now Drapac) – and it now looks as though Bevin is next in line.
The reigning New Zealand road race champion and 2014 NRS winner Joe Cooper believes Bevin is ready to make the jump.
“Without a doubt, Paddy has the makings of another ProTour rider,” said his fellow countryman and Avanti teammate who has his own WorldTour aspirations. “His numbers are just as good as anyone’s in the world, and it’s not like he’d go to the pro peloton and find himself in the gruppetto every day – he’d be a part of the race making it.”
And according to Avanti team co-owner and sports director Andrew Christie-Johnston, the decision to sign Bevin to the next level is an absolute no-brainer.
“There is no risk in signing Paddy,” said Christie-Johnston. “Whatever team gets his signature will be pretty bloody happy with what they get.”
“Paddy is the closest to being ProTour ready,” he continued. “Although Richie slotted in pretty quick as a neo-pro and won the white jersey at the Giro, all the others for different reasons – be it their age or whatever – were slotted into a working role.
“Whilst a team will most probably put Paddy into that working role initially, he has the ability to step in and immediately win races and I think he’s ready and he is certainly one of the best – if not the best – rider we’ve ever had on this team.”
Hugs for Paddy Bevin after beating Caleb Ewan to win stage 4.
Bevin’s rise to prominence was not a smooth one. The man from New Zealand’s North Island even came close to walking away from the sport in 2013 following a disappointing four-year stint riding for US-based Continental team Bissell Pro Cycling.
“I had a couple of really bad crashes back-to-back and head knocks at the start of 2012 and spent about three months floundering,” Bevin confided to CyclingTips in a sit down interview in Seoul. “I eventually called the contract off in June, and came home but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. It had been four years and my mind was starting to wonder.
“I enrolled in university just to tell my parents I was doing something while in reality I just needed to try and figure things out.”
During this sabbatical, Bevin turned his attention toward the highly touted New Zealand national track program and took gold in the Madison with teammate Tom Scully at the UCI World Cup in Mexico last year. Bevin would later be selected for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but claims his relationship with the boards was rocky at best.
“The track was really hard,” he said. “I came from nowhere and had no help from the federation, and spent about $20,000 just to be in the ballpark with the equipment to race – the Oceania champs cost me a fortune.
“After the World Cup win, I had a pretty good nationals and won the points race and came second in the pursuit, and that put me on the radar for the Comm Games. But I didn’t get to start in the points race and was just in the pursuit in Glasgow, so that stung a bit.”
In the meantime, Bevin took two stages and the points classification at the An Post Rás in Ireland in May 2014. Bevin’s success there caught the attention of Australian Continental team Search2Retain (S2R) which lured Bevin back to the road.
In eight stages at the Tour de Korea Bevin found the podium seven times. He finished third once, second five times and won stage 4.
While riding for S2R in the latter part of last year, Bevin bounced back to both physical and mental form with stage and race wins at the National Capital Tour and the Tour of Tasmania.
“I learned a lot from my time in the track program,” explained Bevin. “The transformation came after realising how wrong I went in to the Comm Games. I went in there flying and came out creeping and found out that’s how not to do it for me. Don’t get me wrong, the national high performance program does a great job, but I was going backwards – that’s where Search2Retain came in.
“I signed with S2R at the end of the NRS to supplement what I was doing on the track and I was really grateful for that opportunity and we had a lot of fun,” said the 2014 national criterium champion. “S2R came at a time when it was really important for me to transform as far away from my track experience as possible.
“A month later I was second up the Mt. Wellington time trial – a hors catégorie climb in the Tour of Tasmania – which set me up to win the race,” he continued. “It was a moment of vindication and proof that I was better than how my career had progressed from the road to the track in previous years.”
Following its fifth consecutive NRS overall teams classification title, it was little surprise when the Avanti Racing Team came calling following its New Zealand-registration in September. UCI rules dictated that the former Australian squad needed to fill more than 50% of its 21-man roster with riders from ‘the land of the long white cloud.’
But Avanti was not the only team interested in Bevin. Cashed-up Australian Pro-Continental squad Drapac also came calling.
“We got talking with him after he won on that brutally hard course in Tasmania and our best climbers couldn’t get rid of him,” recalled Christie-Johnston. “It was bloody impressive.
“We were pretty confident we were able to pick him up, but we heard that Drapac was pushing hard and had in fact already [tried to sign] him to which both he and his manager denied.
Paddy Bevin ended up finishing second at the Tour de Korea, behind Caleb Ewan and ahead of Adam Blythe.
“I don’t thing the hold-up was money because for him to come to our team he had to take a massive pay cut from what was being offered at Drapac,” he continued. “I told him I believed he had the ability to take it to the next level and I think I can take him there, so if he was willing to sacrifice one year of higher salary and put in the hard work, then I would work hard to get him to the WorldTour.
“I told him if he didn’t have that belief in himself to go the next level, then he should go sign with Drapac.”
According to Bevin there was never a doubt.
“The decision to turn down Drapac wasn’t very hard,” explained Bevin. “The opportunity to come to Avanti given what these guys have done with this program was just too good to pass up.
“Just look at how many guys move forward from Avanti compared to other teams,” he continued. “I’ve had more fun this year being versatile and being able to race to win and I’d make the same decision to join Avanti in a heartbeat.”
As for the future, the current NRS leader and Herald Sun Tour runner up, who bested Orica-GreenEdge’s Cameron Meyer and Simon Clarke atop the infamous Arthur’s Seat to claim stage 4 in February, says that while he dreams of WorldTour selection, he does not lose sleep while waiting for an opportunity to present itself.
“Of course I want to go on,” said the 2015 Tour de Taiwan double stage winner. “By coming [to Avanti] I’ve put a lot of faith in their hands so you have to see that through. I rely on guys like Andrew and [team co-owner Steve Price] to help me make these decisions and we will figure out what’s best.
“That’s where I’ve fallen down in the past by doing the opposite of listening to people I trust,” Bevin concluded. “I go to bed worrying about tomorrow’s stage, not WorldTour contracts, but make no mistake that’s most definitely where I want to be.”
Also see: Greg Henderson: Bevin looks like the goods to me
Aaron S. Lee is the former editor of Cyclist Magazine and 220 Triathlon, and is currently a cycling columnist for Eurosport Australia and guest contributor to CyclingTips.