A RENEWED FOCUS
Trinity Racing is a team at a crossroads. At the end of 2020, it was announced that Tom Pidcock would leave the squad and go professional with Ineos Grenadiers. You might’ve heard of them.
Suddenly, a team that was originally created to “build a cyclocross team around Tom” – as founder and owner Andrew McQuaid puts it – didn’t have its Tom.
While there’s no disguising the impact that the exit of such a prodigious rider has had, McQuaid is sanguine about it – in fact, as he puts it, sending riders onto bigger and better things is exactly why Trinity Racing exists.
You don’t need to look at the top level of bike racing for very long to see why multi-disciplinary is the way to go, whether it’s Great Britain parlaying its velodrome stars into Grand Tour winners, or the frightening phenoms that have emerged from Dutch and Belgian cyclocross to monster the professional road scene.
For McQuaid, working with youngsters at an early point in their career, multi-discipline is the way forward.
“We think it can really help develop the athletes, particularly the younger athletes to be better bike riders – and then they can concentrate on whatever discipline they want to. But we can build them as athletes to be as good as they can be.”
While the team was far from a one-man band last year, with riders like Thomas Gloag and Irish national champion Ben Healy continuing on from last season after some impressive results in 2020, not to mention the ever-present Cameron Mason who has been with the team since 2019, there’s been a real move towards a more cosmopolitan makeup in the squad for 2021. Four continents are now represented within the Trinity roster.
McQuaid’s background is as a sports agent for pro cyclists - and so identifying riders that will go onto great things is not only his métier, it’s his passion. For the current crop of riders, only world domination will do.
“Our mountain bike squad, we want to try and help as many of them qualify for the Olympics this year as we can. On the road, we’ve a couple of the older riders – Ben Healy and Thomas Gloag – who were very strong last year, we hope they get some very strong results that can lead to a WorldTour contract.
“I also want to grow the team for next year to include a proper women’s side as well on the road, like we have for the men at the moment. I’d love to have the equivalent, not WorldTour but like a Continental women’s team where we can help young female riders develop as well.”
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Mud, tarmac, sand – it’s all bike racing, but there are subtle differences between the mindsets of the different specialists; the mountain bikers (MTB) and the cyclocrossers, and of course the roadies. Haley Batten, a new signing for 2021 – a mountain biker and Tokyo medal hopeful – explains that sometimes the most obvious adjustment is the one staff have to make.
“Mountain bike riders, we can be very individualistic, even when it comes down to preparing our own bottles. Some of the staff who’ve come from other disciplines are like ‘we can do that for you, you know?’”
Batten is a perfect example of the Trinity vision. She is young, super-talented and has her sights set firmly on the long-term.
Batten is part of a roster of five MTB riders, of which two are female and three male. In a sport that is so male-dominated, that’s a split that’s almost unheard of – something of which the team is rightly proud.
For the 22-year-old from Park City, Utah, Trinity Racing feels like home.
“I don’t want to be on a team that is fake and where you’re hiding something – like internal stress and disconnection, or people hitting heads. It’s wonderful to feel so at home and happy, and then to be able to really share that with people. Part of what we want to do is inspire young children and show what the bike as a vehicle can do, especially now for mental health. I think if we can show those larger goals that we all have through our media and through how we feel about cycling and racing, I think that’s a really cool thing to live that every day.”
PUNCHING ABOVE THEIR WEIGHT
Trinity’s plans for the year (and the future beyond) are big. As McQuaid explains, the team must do a lot with a little – they are simultaneously competing with all the big professional teams specialised in just one of the three disciplines in which they race – fighting a battle on multiple fronts, as it were.
“We’re on a tight budget, we don’t have a lot of cash so we do the best with what we have in terms of social media content. We can already tell from our audience that it’s young, 18 to 25, maybe 30-year-old audience.”
Compare that with the ‘standard’ demographic of cycling fans and you realise Trinity is onto something special. These young fans “love it”, McQuaid says.
It’s easy to see why, with riders like Batten already winning races, and doing so with smiles on their faces. Trinity is a team where the riders’ personalities shine through – and a streak of individualism is welcomed rather than stifled.
Right now it is mountain biking keeping McQuaid and his riders busy, but soon the road team will start ratcheting up its intensity, and then at the end of the season, cyclocross begins again. In all these worlds, Trinity is competing for recognition and cut-through against multi-million dollar organisations – and some of the athletes will compete in more than one discipline.
“Luke Lamperti and Ben Healy are road riders, but they started on mountain bikes and they raced mountain bikes as kids. Ben Healy was on the British MTB programme as a junior I think. So for them being able to race now on the MTB is perfect.”
Between first speaking to McQuaid and publishing this article, Lamperti has already won one race on the road, proof that at the very least, racing MTB has provided a decent platform from which to open his road season.
“Because we know physically what it’s doing to them, we can make sure it’s benefiting whatever road career they might want to have,” McQuaid adds. “The races here are full gas for an hour, hour-and-a-half, and you can see from Tom Pidcock and Mathieu van der Poel that actually does make you a better road rider as well when you can go that deep for that long.”
One rider waiting in the wings for his chance to pull on the Trinity jersey is Blake Quick, a 21-year-old Australian road racer. He will join up with Trinity as a guest rider, dropping in to the squad to earn some vital and valuable European racing experience.
“As a young Aussie, there hasn’t been a pathway like this for a long time,” he says. “Not since the U23 national team that would go and race all of the European U23 races.”
That team introduced riders like Nick Schultz, Luke Durbridge and Caleb Ewan to euro racing, but the focus of Australian Cycling has been firmly on the track in recent years - leaving road riders like Quick without a route into the top echelons.
“There’s been none of that ever since I’ve started coming through the U23s, it’s just been all the focus and support has been on the track. So to have a pathway like this, to get the opportunity to go race the roads of Europe, to see a pathway and somewhere to go is a big deal.”
Quick will be swapping one MAAP jersey for another when he comes to Europe to join up with his new teammates. He currently rides with InForm-TMX-Make, a National Road Series team back in Australia, McQuaid explains.
“The partnership with InForm in Australia just made sense. We used to manage Simon Gerrans and he’s on the board of the team. They have some very promising young Australian riders who they were looking for a pathway into Europe for.
“MAAP are our mutual partner and they have been brilliant. It was just an easy partnership. We’ll take some of their riders during different blocks of the year and place them into our team and get them experience and, yeah, get them some good racing that they otherwise wouldn’t have because it’s extremely expensive for that team to travel to Europe.”
Quick reinforces just what an opportunity this is for he and his three young Aussie teammates.
“Europe is the bread and butter of racing. Even though the Australian domestic racing is hard, it doesn’t have the same credibility, and there’s not the same depth. Like it doesn’t mean as much if you win a race here as it does over there. This opportunity is huge.”