As two of his many graduates prepare to link up at the top level, Tasmanian team owner Andrew Christie-Johnston is taking a step back from Australian cycling.
The owner of the Hobart-based outfit that nurtured the careers of Richie Porte and Will Clarke has announced a change of focus after 18 years lubricating a production line of elite riders.
As the experienced 33-year-olds can be seen training around Launceston ahead of teaming up at Trek-Segafredo for the next two years, Christie-Johnston and co-owner Steve Price will no longer run the National Road Series powerhouse that has produced more WorldTour riders than any other team.
Price is stepping away to spend more time with his family while Christie-Johnston has decided to take a back-seat support role behind rival sport director Tom Petty in a combined venture Continental team called BridgeLane.
“To be honest, it was just getting too hard and so many hours away,” Christie-Johnston told CyclingTips. “I’ve got two daughters that are quite young so I decided to spend a lot more time with them.
“We got back from Europe and we talked about whether we’re going to do it again, like we do every year, and we decided that I think it’s a pretty good time to call it.
“I don’t know technically what it would be called — probably it’d be considered a merger in some degree — but more with the understanding that yes I am taking a backward step.”
“Yes I am still involved a bit, but more as the owner of the team and Tom will certainly be heading up the team as the manager/owner.”
Originally known as Praties and most recently operating as Bennelong-SwissWellness, the Tasmanian outfit doubled the points of its nearest rival to win this year’s NRS teams ranking and claimed the Tour of Tasmania crown through Dylan Sunderland.
The New South Welshman is expected to transition into BridgeLane along with fellow NRS race winners Ayden Toovey and Tristan Ward with 2016 Launceston Classic winner Steele von Hoff likely to return and 2017 Tour of Tasmania champ Lionel Mawditt also signing up but a third of the squad will be made up of new recruits.
“I’ve never put on six or seven new riders, ever,” Christie-Johnston added. “So it’ll be a challenge.
“Interesting times to start with and I think that’s probably the reason why I agreed to help Tom on the ground initially in January.”
Christie-Johnston is likely to devise a race calendar beginning in Australia and New Zealand before venturing into Asia and ultimately on to Europe.
In other Tasmanian cycling news, Launceston’s Poatina Challenge winner Zac Johnson and under-19 Catelyn Turner, of Exeter, are both riding in Victoria’s three-stage Tour of Bright this weekend, both fresh from completing the Tour of Tasmania.