In addition to the team’s Israeli identity and the big Canadian influence, a third, and significant, piece of Israel – Premier Tech’s character comes from its Australian substream. In the Cro Race, that is clearly visible.
With three Australian riders (and Patrick Bevin from New Zealand), over half the team’s lineup is from the southern hemisphere. Sebastian Berwick, the team leader in the Cro Race, is one of them. Taj Jones and Alastair Mackellar are the other two. The final Australian rider in the team, Simon Clarke, is not in Croatia.
The three Aussies in Croatia know each other very well and are close friends. They used to race the same races in the junior category in Australia. Jones and Mackellar have even been teammates for the last four years, before Israel – Premier Tech, on a local Australian continental team and in the junior club called Sunshine Coast Cycling Club.
‘This is the first time we race together’
Outside of racing, they are also each other’s first points of contact, now living in the same European city. They even used to live together in the same space, but now Mackellar lives with Jones, while Berwick moved out to a different building, but still living close by his fellow countrymen.
“We regularly go out for training rides together, the three of us”, Taj Jones says. “We live close by each other, see each other nearly every day and we have a similar sense of humour. That makes spending time with Seb and Alastair fun.”
Berwick says it is actually the first time that they have all raced together in one race. “I have raced with Taj, and with Alastair in other races, but not with both of them at the same time. Racing together is different, also because we are all different kinds of riders.”
Being away from home
“I am more of a climber, and the team leader here in Croatia”, Berwick says. “While Taj is here for the sprints. Alastair is an all-rounder who is particularly strong in difficult stages. We all have our own priorities here in Croatia in that sense.”
Mackellar believes that it is beneficial to know Jones and Berwick so well. “I like to believe that if we are racing together in the peloton we know each other’s behaviour. For instance, if we are moving up in the bunch, or getting into a descent then I feel more comfortable behind those two than someone I do not know. Surely that has to do with the fact that we know each other so well.”
All three of them are still young. Jones, at 22 years old, has been with the team since last year. Berwick is also 22, and Mackellar, the youngest of the trio, at the age of 20 joined the continental squad in 2021. Being away from home and living abroad at such a ‘young’ age, especially during the Covid-19 period, has not always been easy.
“It is not easy to go home and see my family and friends”, Jones says understatedly. “Especially during the last two years, it has been difficult due to all the restrictions. In those periods of time, you appreciate having close friends around even more.”
On the same boat
Mackellar underlines the importance of the connection between the three Aussies. “We are all in a similar situation: living and racing in Europe, while we are originally from the other side of the world. It connects us, and generally, there are many more cyclists from far-away countries living in Girona, which does make it feel like home.”
Berwick enjoys the fact that they are going through the same journey together. “We all stepped on this boat in 2021, and after many beautiful experiences, it now leads to the first race we are racing together – the three of us. We will continue to fight in this race, and help each other for the best performances possible.”