Australian Cycling Academy to help give racers ‘options beyond sport’

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Australia’s Continental ranks are set to expand in 2018 with several domestic teams making the step up to UCI classification. Joining those teams will be ACA-Ride Sunshine Coast, a new outfit started by Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ben Kersten and Orica-Scott sports director Matt Wilson.

In setting up the Australian Cycling Academy (ACA), the pair have collaborated with the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) and the Sunshine Coast Council. The ACA-Ride Sunshine Coast team, which had its official launch today, was founded with a goal to “create a better future for Australian cyclists, on and off the bike”.

Besides racing in Australia and Asia under a Continental (i.e. third-tier) license, the Australian Cycling Academy will provide a tertiary education scholarship program and professional mentoring for its riders.

“The ACA offers athletes the opportunity to study and learn professional skills while they chase their sporting dreams,” said Kersten, who has worked with the NSW Institute of Sport (including its race team) in recent years. “We’re fortunate to have the backing of USC and Sunshine Coast Council so that we can be based in one of the best cycling destinations in the world.

“We care about more than just results on the road; we want to see better outcomes for Australian cyclists. We are committed to providing a genuine pathway for young riders. We are here to nurture talent and we want athletes to have options beyond sport.”

The team will be based out of the USC — a perfect fit for both organisations, according to the university’s vice-chancellor Professor Greg Hill.

“USC is building the ultimate environment to give high-performing and emerging athletes the opportunity to flourish, supported by world leaders in coaching, performance development and sport and exercise science research,” he said.

“We’ve developed a very successful High Performance Student Athlete program that integrates elite sport with a quality education. It allows talented athletes to pursue their educational and sporting goals at the same time.”

ACA-Ride Sunshine Coast isn’t the first Australian team to encourage its riders to focus on education as well as racing. The Drapac setup has long focused on the importance of preparing for life outside of sport, most recently with the Drapac-Pat’s Veg team, a Continental outfit comprised of students.

Thirteen riders will comprise the ACA-Ride Sunshine Coast roster in its debut season, headlined by former WorldTour professional Leigh Howard. The 28-year-old multiple-time track world champion will be joined at the ACA by promising young talents such as Kelland O’Brien, Sam Welsford, Cameron Scott and Daniel Fitter.

The team will fill its racing calendar with events from Australia’s National Road Series, and lower-level races from the Asia Tour.

The full ACA-Ride Sunshine Coast roster is as follows: Leigh Howard, Kelland O’Brien, Sam Welsford, Cameron Scott, Daniel Fitter, Mitchell Wright, Michael Potter, Amarni Gates, Elliot Schultz, Aidan Kampers, Toby Orchard, Ashley Mackay and Alistair Mackellar.