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PCM.daily » PCM.daily's Management Game » [Man-Game] Teams HQ
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[PT] Xero Racing '21 | Goals
jandal7
redordead wrote:
Even if you don't survive in PT you still had a good transfer period with Pidcock and Vermeersch. In hindsight I should've just done what you did and get a top talent, instead I missed out on every target Pfft

Xero domination incoming in a few years Cool

Pogacar not enough for you? Pfft I definitely know the feeling of failing to go for everything, but I feel like going for points was probably important for both of us, and in the short-term at least you'll be proven right in your approach and I'll probably be proven wrong Grin

I'll settle for just being a good home-built team, but I wouldn't mind domination either Grin Thanks for the kind words
 
jandal7
i.imgur.com/xuMKyVQ.png

A couple of days before the Xero squad presentation, men and women in Octagon polo shirts usher skinny young men with muscly legs into an electrically colourful room, a few at a time. Some look bemused by the whole act, a couple look nervous, some are mucking around and some are already cheerfully chatting with our cameraman. The background is blue with streaks of red, white, light blue, green and red, just as with their jerseys. The props are there - the bikes, the bouncy balls, the deck of cards, the team caps. This isn't the madhouse it might look like, but it isn't your average team photoshoot either - Octagon have really done their best to show us the happy, playful side of the team which used to carry their name, and, a cynic might say, emphasise the riders' youth and potential since they're hardly big names in the PT. After their photoshoots, we sat down with some of them for interviews. First up, it's George Bennett!

George Bennett
30 | Maxed | 420,000 | Xero since 2017
FLAMONHILTTSTARESRECCOBSPRACCFTRDHPRL
67817665757479586573556365
Xero Palmarès
- 2x GC Tour of Japan ('19, '20)- 3rd GC Volta a Portugal ('19)
- Gisborne GP ('17)- 3rd GC Tour of Romandie ('19)
- 3x Stage Win Tour of Japan ('19, '20)- 3rd GC Tour of Cyprus ('19)
- 2x Stage Win Tour de Pologne ('20)- 2x Points Tour of Japan ('19, '20)
- Stage Win Tour of the Middle East ('18)- 2x KoM Tour of Japan ('19, '20)
- Stage Win Giro del Trentino ('17)- Points Tour de Pologne ('20)
- 2nd GC Tour de Romandie ('20)
Xero Stats
BestRankBestRank
Seasons4=4thPoints/€€308€239 ('20)2nd
Points1949716 ('20)1stJerseys53 ('20)1st
Wins105 ('20)1stRDs19855 ('18)6th
Wage€600,000€175,000 ('20)4thRotM83 ('19)1st

Long-time fans and purveyors of 2016's third tier of cycling may remember a day when George Bennett wasn't synonymous with Xero Racing - but for most in the cycling world, it's hard to imagine this team without it's home hero and star climber. He's their all-time leader in wins total, both GC victories and stage wins, points, jerseys won, second in points-per-wage and first in Rider of the Months win. Winner of the Fan's Rider of the Year award for all of his four seasons, and twice winner of the Rider's Rider of the Year award, Bennett has improved his craft year on year as he assumed the role of the team's star and talisman.

i.imgur.com/3pYidam.jpg

"Couldn't you use a picture from the last four of these?" the smile seems to say

"I really feel at home here now. I had great times and learning experiences at Aegon, Project: Africa and Oz but this team has been so good for me and I really get along with the boys and girls here - it's a super positive environment and we keep challenging ourselves and building year on year." the two-time Tour of Japan winner tells us. And indeed they have - but 2021 promises to be the biggest challenge yet, with the team heavy favourites for the drop. And with this all being part of the team's long-term plan, some are wondering where the 30-year-old Bennett fits into Xero's next phase - will this be his only chance to lead them at the highest level?

"I really hope not - and I'm not sure that's a discussion too worth having at the moment. Obviously right now the focus is just on this season and my goals, doing what I can to get us as much points as I can. We all know we won't be around forever - but I don't feel like I'm slowing down yet, and these young guys will be ready to fight sooner than everyone seems to think."

1/2-9/2 Volta a PortugalPTHC
11/5-31/5 Vuelta a EspañaPTM
3/7-23/7 Tour de FrancePTM

So, what can he do this season? Bennett will ride just three races this year - three of the longest on the calendar, to be sure, but just three. With his occasional inconsistency this is a move that could backfire, given the increased stakes in each one. He'll first take on a familiar hunting ground at the Volta a Portugal - where he has twice delighted (3rd in 2019, 5th in 2018) and once disappointed (11th last season).

"Well, I chatted to the Tour of Japan and they said they wouldn't move up with me - so I guess Portugal will have to do!" laughs Bennett. "But in all seriousness despite that final time trial it's a race I think really suits me and I've had a lot of good times at - and I'd love to put things right after last season! I guess like all PTHC races it really depends who turns up, because you can end up with basically a Pro Tour start list or one weaker than most HC races."

i.imgur.com/2Cj7qe4.jpg

Showing some fighting spirit in his last Vuelta outing

However, the two other races on his calendar are less of a known quantity for the Kiwi - leading Grand Tours. He has actually ridden both La Vuelta and Le Tour once before - in 2016 in service of Aegon's GC leaders Olivier and Keizer. In Spain, he managed a respectable 24th on GC with one stage Top 10 from a breakaway, in France it was 23rd with no such individual moment. While these experiences riding for 21 days will help him prepare physically, Bennett expects having the burden of the team's expectations on him for these prestigious stage races to be something quite different.

"It's going to be a big challenge for sure but it's one I think I'm up for. I coped well with the length then and I think I'm only stronger now. The level of focus and grit it takes to be on top of my game for the GC over three weeks isn't lost on me - but I'm not scared of the task either."

The other side of such a focused calendar is that for the first time, it means Bennett won't have one of his most trusted teammates by his side - as Joseph Areruya's impressive solo outings last season has seen him handed the keys to full-time leadership as the Rwandan continues to improve. The older of Xero's climbers is full of nothing but praise for his young teammate, and laughs off any suggestion that they can't fit on the same team.

"I mean especially in PT that's not true - I don't think even the both of us filled up every race day we would have been happy to ride. I think it's a really good match - even if people would categorise us as the same type of climber I think he's got even more strength in the hilly stuff as well as the longer climbs, it's incredible and it means we're always going to be able to share the fun. I'm going to miss riding with him but he's still a mate and I can't wait to see him as a top leader for us."

i.imgur.com/SSfpVko.jpg

One of Bennett's most memorable victories - in front of a home crowd at the 2017 Gisborne GP

And so although commentators, both armchair and professional, can wonder how long those feelings will last, from every word said by George Bennett and his managers at Xero it seems like they're all too happy to continue like this for eternity. It's a sometimes rare and always beautiful thing to see such a perfect marriage of a team and their home star. In a year where many PT teams had to say goodbye to their beloved regional talismans, it's a pleasure to know that George Bennett will be filling New Zealanders and Xero fans worldwide with pride and joy for another season to come.
 
redordead
jandal7 wrote:
redordead wrote:
Even if you don't survive in PT you still had a good transfer period with Pidcock and Vermeersch. In hindsight I should've just done what you did and get a top talent, instead I missed out on every target Pfft

Xero domination incoming in a few years Cool

Pogacar not enough for you? Pfft I definitely know the feeling of failing to go for everything, but I feel like going for points was probably important for both of us, and in the short-term at least you'll be proven right in your approach and I'll probably be proven wrong Grin

I'll settle for just being a good home-built team, but I wouldn't mind domination either Grin Thanks for the kind words

Pogacar is more than enough Pfft In fact I planed on signing (x)zero talents this year. I was just trying to say I'd rather have another top talent and relegate than not having that and ending up relegating the same.

So your decision making was better than mine Smile

Not that it takes much to do better than me of course :lol:


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"I am a cyclist, I may not be the best, but that is what I strive to be. I may never get there, but I will never quit trying." - Tadej Pogačar
 
jandal7
redordead wrote:
Pogacar is more than enough Pfft In fact I planed on signing (x)zero talents this year. I was just trying to say I'd rather have another top talent and relegate than not having that and ending up relegating the same.

So your decision making was better than mine Smile

Not that it takes much to do better than me of course :lol:

You better not be signing any Xero talents! Pfft

And well... we'll see. Long season and way too early to say you'll relegate.
 
redordead
jandal7 wrote:
You better not be signing any Xero talents! Pfft

Don't worry, I couldn't spot a Xero talent even if he cycled past me Wink


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"I am a cyclist, I may not be the best, but that is what I strive to be. I may never get there, but I will never quit trying." - Tadej Pogačar
 
jandal7
redordead wrote:
jandal7 wrote:
You better not be signing any Xero talents! Pfft

Don't worry, I couldn't spot a Xero talent even if he cycled past me Wink

Really? They spent the last two seasons doing nothing but cycling ahead of you...
 
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redordead
jandal7 wrote:
redordead wrote:
jandal7 wrote:
You better not be signing any Xero talents! Pfft

Don't worry, I couldn't spot a Xero talent even if he cycled past me Wink

Really? They spent the last two seasons doing nothing but cycling ahead of you...

They must have been too far ahead then.


pcmdaily.com/images/mg/PCMdailyAwards2018/mgnewmanager.png
pcmdaily.com/images/mg/Awards2020/mghq2.png


"I am a cyclist, I may not be the best, but that is what I strive to be. I may never get there, but I will never quit trying." - Tadej Pogačar
 
jandal7
i.imgur.com/xuMKyVQ.png

A couple of days before the Xero squad presentation, men and women in Octagon polo shirts usher skinny young men with muscly legs into an electrically colourful room, a few at a time. Some look bemused by the whole act, a couple look nervous, some are mucking around and some are already cheerfully chatting with our cameraman. The background is blue with streaks of red, white, light blue, green and red, just as with their jerseys. The props are there - the bikes, the bouncy balls, the deck of cards, the team caps. This isn't the madhouse it might look like, but it isn't your average team photoshoot either - Octagon have really done their best to show us the happy, playful side of the team which used to carry their name, and, a cynic might say, emphasise the riders' youth and potential since they're hardly big names in the PT. After their photoshoots, we sat down with some of them for interviews. We've met George Bennett, time for the team's other mountain leader - Joseph Areruya!

Joseph Areruya
25 | Maxed | 540,000 | Xero since 2018
FLAMONHILTTSTARESRECCOBSPRACCFTRDHPRL
72797965767879536876756065
Xero Palmarès
- Stage Win Tour of Norway ('19)- 2nd U25 Hong Kong Challenge ('20)
- Stage Win Tour de l'Avenir ('19)- 2nd U25 Tour of Lithuania ('20)
- 5th GC Hong Kong Challenge ('20)- 2nd U25 Tour of Pologne ('20)
- 5th GC Tour of Lithuania ('20)- 2nd U25 Tour of Japan ('20)
- 6th GC Tour of the Middle East ('20)- 3rd U25 Tour of Cyprus ('20)
- U25 Int. Österreich-Rundfahrt ('20)- 3rd U25 Volta a Portugal ('20)
- 2nd KoM Tour of Norway ('19)- 3rd U25 Tour of Beijing ('19)
- 2nd KoM Tour de San Luis ('18)- 3rd U25 Tour of California ('20)
- 2nd U25 Tour of Norway ('19)
Xero Stats
RankBestRankBest
Seasons3=7th€/point€83915th€338 ('20)
Points6796th473 ('20)Breaks162nd11 ('18)
Wins1=8th1 ('19)RDs2115th90 ('18)
Wage€570,0004th€260,000 ('18)RotM1=12th1 ('19)
Jerseys1=3rd1 ('20)

Despite the shadow of Merhawi Kudus (who, despite feeling like a veteran, is only two years his senior) looming large over Africa's newest up-and-coming climber, Joseph Areruya has still managed to be one of cycling's most talked-about prospects for the newer generation, even collecting notable superfans online.

It's an interesting time to be a young climber - Bernal, Pogacar, Padun, Oomen and Areruya himself are all proving their quality as they slowly but surely rise towards the top. However, of their classes, nobody has shown anything to suggest they'll match who we normally think of as the "new generation", who in fact have been around for quite a while: namely, Kudus, Herklotz, and Lecuisinier, all of whom they will have to share the stage with for their entire careers due to those riders entering pro cycling earlier than is now allowed. Does Xero's card in the deck think he can measure up to those riders - as indeed he may well be asked to do?

i.imgur.com/9ZdLJeu.jpg

"I'm not thinking about Herklotz or Merhawi at the moment. I think I'm still improving, but I haven't even had a season in the Pro Tour yet. This year I don't think there's any pressure to be fighting at the top - I'm still learning and I'm grateful to have this experience of leading at the top level, and seeing those guys up close." he says, calmly. Of course, with the attention their fans and others are paying to the youngster, it's likely this is a verse well-rehearsed with one of the PR managers standing around us - but Areruya has a certain earnestness as he speaks to make you believe he's really has got himself grounded.

Areruya has been a noted name on Xero's roster each season (the team putting the effort in to ensure he never had to be loaned out) since his fan-pleasing free agent signing in 2018. He lead the team in breakaways in 2018, scoring a decent amount of points for a neo-pro, then in 2019 provided great domestique performances and already provided GC depth himself. His Ride of the Year breakaway victory on Stage 4 of the Tour of Norway (below) being a particular highlight, as he went solo to chase down the leader Pichon on the final climb, overhauled him, and kept the charging former world champion Simone Ponzi at bay to take a heroic stage victory. In the end he just missed out on the top 100 of the rankings with a credible 168 points.

i.imgur.com/eF6O4Lb.jpg

However 2020 provided something of a breakthrough for the Rwandan - he was never particularly flashy, but when provided with his own leading opportunities he rode with maturity beyond his two years' professional experience. His improvement provided a key cog in the team's charge to promotion. He put in some strong GC finishes ahead of much more favoured opposition, and scored a fantastic 473 points, his team's fourth scorer in the rankings, ahead of both Houle and Meurisse. This year he's improved again, enough to earn full-time independence from George Bennett but then again, the competition is much stiffer as he makes his PT debut.

"I've learned so much from George in particular on this team so in a way it's sad to not be riding with him this year, but I'm so thankful to the team for their faith in giving me all my own races this season. Now I get to cheer for him from the couch instead of needing to find out where he finished after I'm done with the stage!" he laughs. A more stubborn veteran or arrogant youngster would probably be feuding over race choices and star status, but no doubt to the delight of the Xero manager, these don't seem to be those guys - especially after they opted to give Areruya both of the non-ITT stage races on their calendar.

"Of course there is competition though - but I don't think either of us would be where we are if we weren't competitive. But I think we both came out of the scheduling meetings happy."

Although many in and outside of the Xero set-up may have liked Areruya to ride exclusively stage races in order to maximise his points from U25 classifications, the team decided otherwise - using 8RDs on four hilly to medium mountain classics instead of attending, say, the Criterium du Dauphine. As well as doing this for reasons of suitability - given Dauphine includes a TTT and an ITT, the team and Areruya himself were also keen to see what he could do in hilly classics after he found some success in hilly stage races last season, particularly as he lines up future training camps.

12/2-18/2 Tirreno-AdriaticoPT
3/4-23/4 Giro d'ItaliaPTM
3/5 Fleche WallonePT
7/5 Liege-Bastogne-LiegePTM
8/8 Clasica San SebastianPTHC
1/10-8/10 Tour du MarocPTHC
18/10 Giro di LombardiaPTM

"I do enjoy the mini-competition of fighting for a white jersey and I know it's where a lot of my points can come from, but me and the bosses both really wanted to ride some classics - it's not something I've done much of yet but it's good for variety and testing my skills there. I'm not expecting much but it will teach me a lot." he says.

However, the big headline grabber, of course, is his quest for white at his (and the team's) first Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia. With its hills and no long ITT it surely must have been a hotly contested spot between him and Bennett, but the young Rwandan has been chosen to spearhead the squad in Italy, backed by a very young squad around him in support (only two riders above 26, with five eligible for the U25 competition). However, their youth could be a blessing in disguise, says Areruya.

"Daniel, Jordan, James, Nils, Morne - we've grown up together in a lot of ways the last few years and we all know each other very well on and off the bike. I have total faith in them to support me in any race, but especially this one. I'm really really looking forward to the Giro." he says, unable to contain his grin. Is the white jersey a reasonable expectation? "I don't know about expectation, but it's definitely the goal."

A confident but cool head, and even if he's not the next Gesink, Herklotz or indeed Kudus, you get the sense that's alright: much like Bennett before him, both team and rider seem to think they've found their perfect match.
 
Mresuperstar
Great read and stats. The storyteller in me applauds the effort that went into this. Wink
i.imgur.com/uLFE42A.png
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liefwarrior
I am loving these interviews! The writing is excellent, and the passion is evident. Certainly some very nice palmarès for Bennet, although one hopes they will be surpassed by young Areruya. I, for one, believe in his ability to grow to challenge Superman as the current generation of puncheurs fades out.
 
Nemolito
Some great effort translated into even greater texts and interviews indeed! Very interested to see how a maxed Areruya will do in PT, as he is definitely one of the riders that (already) was very present last year in my reports, while still being an unmaxed rider.

Love to see the Vermeersch signing. Was thinking about him as well as a half Belgian team, but decided to go for cheap talents only. So it's nice to see him in a nice team such as yours. Pidcock is not too bad either I suppose Wink
 
Croatia14
I love the texts on Bennett and Areruya, great work!
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knockout
Two great presentations for your two climbing leaders. Hope they can punch above their weight this season!
 
jandal7
@Mre - Wow, that means so much coming from you, thank you!

@liefwarrior - Thank you man! And yes, with his extra years we all hope Areruya can kick on past Bennett's record for the team in due time - but for now he's still got a way to catch him and Bennett isn't slowing down! Catching MAL will take a lot (if that is the way we choose to take him if we train Wink ) given the former had a 3HI headstart and now a 5 point one, it's not looking likely. Plus the TT and DH advantages would do the Colombian a lot of good there. So much like he said about Herklotz and Kudus, I'm not sure Lopez is really on his radar Wink But thanks for the faith at any rate!

@Nemo - Well it's natural for Areruya to come up in your reports when you've been spying on me and cunego's Macca's conversations as I remember :lol: Hope we can do you and the Belgian founds with Vermeersch, thank you! And yeah he's alright but it's like whatever you know?

@Croatia - Thanks a lot buddy Smile

@knockout - Thank you, we do as well - even if we're not under any illusion they can stave off relegation, I just really want them to be visible and create some memories for the next time I do such a profile on them Wink
 
jandal7
i.imgur.com/8vX7tw3.png

Xero have never been ones to fulfill more than 2 or 3 of their goals. In 2016 the choices were poor. In 2017 their leaders crashed to a ridiculous degree all season, particularly honing in on goal races. In 2018 they picked all cobbles goals then signed nobody above 75COB. In 2019 and 2020 they did a little better but their leaders still seemed to underperform a little bit when the spotlight is on them. This year is their lowest-aiming year ever in terms of goals - but some would argue they're all still uphill battles.

Giro d'Italia - Top 10
i.imgur.com/iL5U7G3.png

The Giro d'Italia won't only be team and leader Joseph Areruya's first ever Grand Tour, it will also be the first goal race of the year for the team. Obviously this one will have a lot to do with the strength of the startlist, but given it's easily the least ITT-heavy Grand Tour we expect a lot of strong climbers to come here to give Areruya a hell of a fight to try and achieve this goal. Even in a normal Grand Tour field this will be a tough one, but we look forward to the fight!


Tour de France - Top 10
i.imgur.com/D0LZ74s.png

We could almost copy and paste what we said about the Giro for Le Tour - this time it's George Bennett taking on the task of breaking into the Top 10 of a Grand Tour. The ITT kilometres will hurt his chances compared to some of his rivals but we hope he can use the hilly and mountain stages to make some of that time back up.


GP Moscow - Win
pcmdaily.com/images/mg/2021/Profiles/mg_moscow.jpg

There's an argument that this is the race where we are likely to come furthest away from our goals - in a straight sprint then our leader here Luke Rowe could easily finish outside the top 20 on an off day. However, we believe that it's not the worst choice for our mandatory win goal, given a) his ability with a late attack or in the wind to outwit better sprinters and b) the fact that he is actually a former winner here! In 2014 (at just 24 years old) he didn't even need a late attack, just finding the right wheel, launching ahead of some legendary sprinters and holding them off for a surprise victory! We don't really care how he does it, but we'd love a repeat!


Stage Wins in the Season - 10
A surprising target for us perhaps given we don't have anyone who'd really be favoured to win a stage all season, but perhaps it gives a hint as to our hopes for breakaway success and targeting some individual moments of glory with our leaders to create some memories for the season - and now to try and fulfill a goal as well.


Team Standings - Avoid Relegation
Well, we don't really need to have this one as a goal to know that we'd love to do this. Maybe the toughest one on here but we're going to give this season all we have.
 
redordead
Now I "really" can't get in the way of your race goals Wink


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"I am a cyclist, I may not be the best, but that is what I strive to be. I may never get there, but I will never quit trying." - Tadej Pogačar
 
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