I must confess that prior to his joining Hagens Berman Axeon, I wasn’t too familiar at all with Australian Jarrad Drizners. However, a quick search revealed a national criterium title, and pretty much that he was one of THE guys to beat on the famously tough National Racing Series back in Australia, with six wins, plus a kermesse win in Belgium.
Jarrad, who tells me he is a former trackie who has only really committed full time to the road very recently, has looked right at home it has to be said. He was brilliant in Australia in January and looked comfortable in Europe too (well, the one race day he managed before the pandemic that is).
I gave Jarrad a call last week, not too long after he returned to Girona, as a return to racing looks relatively imminent, and got to know the third year U23 a little bit better. Jarrad also keep a nice tradition going for this site, as we have had every Australian U23 RR champion on since our inception back in 2017: Sam Jenner, Cyrus Monk, Nick White and now Drizners.
“I’m originally a track rider, racing on the Podium Potential Academy and the Australian B team. I also raced on the road with an NRS team (InForm TM Insight MAKE, ed.), and did two stints in Belgium racing kermesses, once supported and once just on my own. There wasn’t too many chances to show myself on the road, and last year I was hungry for it and decided to commit full time to the road. For sure coming into this year, my lack of UCI races was a question mark, but I’m thankful the team took a chance on me. Things went well from the start with winning nationals and having a strong Tour Down Under, racing in my home town in the national colours.”
So why switch to the road full time? Jarrad said he was always curious, and his results were good enough to suggest he had a pretty bright future there. He shared his career-altering thought process with me.
“I’d always thought about the road and was curious. If my road results hadn’t been anything special, I’d probably have kept on mixing it with the track. But my results were good and things were going well. I went with my gut and decided I needed to go for the road solely on its own, and as time passed those thoughts and the feeling in my gut just intensified. With the way things are back home, with diminishing opportunity to race in Europe with the national team, basically it’s only Worlds and l’Avenir they send a team to now, that pathway has gotten less viable. My management began looking, and they got in contact with Axel and things just went from there.”
As mentioned, Jarrad had a total of seven UCI race days across his first two U23 seasons. After the nationals this year, his first UCI stage races was the WorldTour level Tour Down Under. In what could easily have been too much, Jarrad raced aggressively, ending 22nd overall, a pretty special result I would say.
“I’d say before the race I had nervous energy. To me, racing is racing, the level changes but the core principles of racing stay the same, no matter what level. Racing doesn’t change for me. The tough competition was a shock, but I feel I handled it well and kept. my composure. I felt at home and to be honest I did the whole race on cloud nine after the nationals.”
Ah, the nationals. Like a few people, I awoke here in the UK to find Jarrad had claimed the win, which was a bit surprising because he was racing solo against some pretty strong local teams. However, the course suited him perfectly, and the win comes after two pretty close calls in the previous two seasons. Jarrad went into more detail about his special day.
“My first year, I was only going to do the TT and not the road race, so 17th place really surprised me. Last year, I was a bit heavy from the track, but again I rode well and ended up 5th. After that, I decided I really wanted to try and win this year, regardless if I was just on the road or still riding track too. The course suits me well. I was a bit disappointed with 5th in the TT, it wasn’t what I hoped for. Then, in the crit, the weather was so cold and that really knocked me. So at this point, the nationals have been far from smooth sailing. But when I got to Bunninyong on the morning of the race, I felt this rush, this feeling, something I had never felt before. I was just to hungry to win the race. During the race itself, I played my cards right and gambled on the peloton closing the gap to the break, which contained a lot of the big teams. About halfway in, I attacked on the climb and strung the group out, which showed me I had good legs. I recomposed myself and settled back in for the fireworks, which arrived with about two or three laps remaining. I let the race come to me, knowing I could win a sprint, but when Sebastian Berwick went on the last lap, I was glued to his wheel and there was no way I was going to let him get clear. I launched the sprint early and that paid off. There was a lot of emotion winning that race, happiness, relief, just pleased my hard work had paid off. A lot of people were there to celebrate too, which was nice: my family, my coach, my old team.”
Drizners had one European race day so far, the Dorpenomloop Rucphen. Despite his relative inexperience in Europe, he put all that kermesse experience to use and took 11th, best on the team that day.
“That race was like a kermesse on steroids! The racing was the same, but it was just 100km longer. I knew I could do well and even if the level was really high, I could hold my own. Things were fast from the start, but 10km in I found I was comfortable and moving well in the bunch. It was pretty hectic, with the rain and wind. I had good legs and held my position well all day. To be honest, I loved every minute of it and it was nowhere near as bad as I had expected it to be.”
As expected, being so new to full time cycling, it’s not too surprising Jarrad isn’t too sure where his exact strengths and weaknesses lie right now. But he’s a real racer who is willing to have a go on any type of stage, from sprints to TTs, even summit finishes.
“I’m still working it out. My body has changed as I’ve came away from the track. I’ve slimmed down, so naturally my climbing has improved. I have a good punch, which is a handy weapon for reduced sprints as I can bluff more and save my legs. 2020 was a year for me to see what type of rider I am, as I’ve not had much of a chance to race the best U23s in the world as of yet. Hopefully, with what’s left this year I will get more of an idea. Mountaintop finishes, flat stages, TTs: I’ll always give 100%. I’m a bike racer, I’m always willing to give it a go, I can’t turn it off!”
Even though Jarrad’s racing so far has been fantastic, his training camp was a disaster, there is no other way to put it. We already heard during lockdown how fellow Anzac James Fouche’s first camp with the team ended with injury, but Jarrad has his own misfortunes to inform you all about.
“Getting to the camp was quite rushed, I flew out to the USA pretty quickly after Down Under ended. It was a big travel day. There was a lot to take in, I got a good vibe from the team, it was professional but not too serious. I didn’t really know anyone, I’d had a few conversations with Axel before signing and I knew James from just being a fellow Anzac, but I didn’t know him that well before the camp. I roomed with Jakob Egholm, he’s a really good guy too. But I got sick and had to isolate on my own in my own room (don’t worry, the isolation was not corona related!, ed.) for five of the seven days. I’m not kidding when I say I only left the room to go to the pharmacy for medication. I really can’t say much about how the camp went if I’m honest! I put the sickness down to the Tour Down Under catching up to me, the change in climate and the travel day really.
Jarrad, who we will potentially see back racing at the Tour de l’Ain if selected, gave a pretty interesting answer when asked about his dream pro win. Just like his cycling journey so far, he was totally unique.
“I’d say Flanders. It’s so big and iconic. But I feel everyone says that, so just let me think a minute. OK, I’d say Liege or Amstel could suit me more. For me, those are still massive races, but perhaps they don’t carry the hype that Flanders and Roubaix do. I actually have a good Liege story. I reckon that must of been one of the first races I ever watched. I couldn’t sleep one night and turned on the TV and it was on. I think it was 2013, Dan Martin won, so the year before he crashed on the final corner. It was such a good race.”
I’m well aware that what we have seen from Jarrad Drizners is a pretty limited sample size, but it’s hard to not be excited at what we have seen so far. His potential is pretty much untapped right now, he could do anything he chooses in the sport. Given he is in such a good place to develop, it’s hard to envisage anything other than a bright future ahead. The guy is just exactly what he said he is: a real racer. And let’s be honest, those guys are always the most fun to watch. I love his hunger and attitude. It takes a certain type of person to enjoy those hard races in crap weather. He can go all the way to the top if he keeps trending like this.
U23 Cycling Zone wishes to thank Jarrad for taking the time to answer my questions, and I wish him all the best for his 2020 races and beyond. Like always, I wish to thank Chad Childers at Hagens Berman Axeon for coordinating. You can follow Jarrad on Twitter at @jarradrizners.