Interview – Steele von Hoff Unveiled


Aussie sensation Steele Von Hoff unveiled “To get that winning feeling back and reignite the flame, there is no place better to do that than with NFTO”

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Interview – Steele von Hoff Unveiled 

Saturday saw a rider from Australia land in Britain ready to meet his new teammates at NFTO and start work on preparing for a season getting the hands in the air. That rider was Steele Von Hoff.


Champion! Steele von Hoff in the Green and Gold of Aussie champion for the second year. Four times on the podium in four years – that is some consistency! Photo: John Veage/Cycling Australia

The quiet and unassuming Australian is the star signing for NFTO and comes to Britain with a big reputation having already been the first rider to win the Australian crit champs two years in a row and also win a stage in the WorldTour at the Tour Down Under.

Since 2012, Steele has not been out of the top three in the Australian Circuit Race Championships and in 2013, was second in the National Circuit Championships and third in the National Road Race Championships a few days later. Versatile for sure and a rider who is expected to be a big hit with the fans in the UK.

He can sprint, bridge across to a break, ride off road and climb. He is the ‘proper package’ when it comes to cycling.

Steele arrived at the team house on Saturday and was straight out on the bike to be shown around the lanes by team boss John Wood . During the interview that followed the next day, Steele recalled his early days training in Tasmania in the snow so whilst the weather here is a far cry from the Aussie summer he has come from, the very professional Aussie crit champ didn’t waste time getting into the swing of things here despite the cold and rain.

Steele is in Britain for NFTO’s five day training camp in Herefordshire where he and the team will start work on the drills to help Steele and others in the team have the best chance of victory in British races in 2015.

Not that winning is expected to come easy because the British teams these days are not only very strong rider wise but also well drilled and NFTO know that Von Hoff will have more followers on his wheel than Bear Grylls does on Twitter.

The Aussie will be a marked man, especially in the crits wearing the Green and Gold, but NFTO have plenty of options in winners like Jonny McEvoy, Rob Partridge and Ian Bibby to name but three. Eddie Dunbar is another the team will be keen to see get to grips with racing in Britain.


Photo: John Veage/Cycling Australia

It is though the man of Steele, NFTO’s iron man who may be ‘Steeleing’ the show (yes, let’s get the puns out of the way early), who the fans will be keen to see racing after he made such a splash in the cycling headlines at the start of the year.

PS: click here for all the Steele puns you could ask for!

After thawing out from his ride on Sunday, I sat down with Steele who is from the sports mad state of Victoria, home to two of the biggest classics in Australian cycling, the Sun Tour and Melbourne to Warrnambool.

Steele lives in a small place 45 minutes south of the city of Melbourne and when asked has his start to 2015 surpassed his expectations, he replies “for sure. I have had a fantastic year already and didn’t for one expect to come home with the criterium jersey again.”

“As I was the reigning champion and no-one has ever done the double before , to do that was pretty amazing. Then in the Tour Down Under, I managed to grab my first World Tour win”.

Steele, for the two previous years had ridden for Garmin, but was not given a place on the team when it merged with Cannondale. So when asked was he more hungry for the win in the Tour Down Under, he simply replied “I’m always hungry.”

“I didn’t try any more than I would have done the year before. This is my third year after turning professional so I am stronger and riding better for it. The fact I left Garmin didn’t leave a hole at all because I managed to find a good team in NFTO”.


Winning stage four in the Tour Down Under. Photo – Regallo

Steele then explained that whilst he likes winning, a lot, if a teammate is up the road, he’ll play the team card as the team winning is just as important. “Winning is a fantastic feeling but I’m just as happy for one of my teammates and friends to grab the victory as much as I am myself. Of course I like to throw my hands up but if a teammate can get that glory, I am just as happy”.

After all the success so far in 2015, Steele admits that he doesn’t feel anyone such as his team is putting any more pressure on him than he puts on himself. “I am the one that wants to achieve my goals and get back to WorldTour so I’m the one putting the pressure on myself. If anything, the hype surrounding me coming here gives me more confidence. If they think I can win then for sure I will try!”

Von Hoff wins Stage 4 Tour Down Under

See the speed of this guy here!

Whilst Steele is far more than a just rider who wins from bunch kicks, it is his victories in the hurly burly big group sprints that he is known for. I explained to him how I’d watched the footage from the Tour Down Under and seen from the helicopter shots the argy bargy that goes on.

Is it as physical as it looks I asked?

“It’s definitely a contact sport” he replied! “You have to fight for the wheel and if you don’t fight, you’ll be shuffled back because others will move in on you and everyone is hitting everyone in sprints. Not with fists of course but there’s shouldering, and if you put your bars in front of someone else and the person behind you doesn’t back out, then there is going to be a crash”.

“All the sprinters know the risks and in a sprint, if you have your bars in front, you are well on your way in that battle for positioning. Sprinting is not all about speed and is more about positioning but you have to have the speed to finish it off once you get the position. It’s about making split second decisions.”


Sprint efforts during a three and a half hour rider in Herefordshire

From Recumbents and Mountain Biking
In doing my homework on Steele, I’d also seen his name linked to racing recumbent bikes way back at school. Quizzing him on this, Steele explained “I like to call them tricycles! I raced them all through school and its one of my big passions but unfortunately now with cycling being so time consuming, I don’t have the time in the recumbent that you need to”.

“It’s a lot different to normal cycling but is a fantastic sport and I’d like to get back to it one day.”

Steele was also a keen runner at school. “All through high school I was racing cross country, athletics and also triathlons. After high school though, I suffered really bad shin splints and I just couldn’t run anymore. So I took up mountain biking as rehab for the shins as I really enjoyed riding in the dirt. I did that for four years, doing the national series (Australia) and as training for the mountain bike, I was doing the local crits.”

“I found myself in them to be a handy sprinter being a very competitive person so I jumped across to the road in 2010 with the Australian team Genesys Wealth Advisers which is now known as Avanti racing.”

“With Andrew Christie-Johnston’s guidance, I learnt the ropes of cycling and had a very successful 2011. Both Nathan Hass (now riding for Garmin Cannondale) and me went to Tasmania for around a month and half and Andrew would put us through these training sessions everyday and also take us out behind the scooter frequently. We also had team camps and just learnt the ropes thanks to him”.

“It made us toughen up as well as we were riding through snow and bonded well as a team. When the (Australian) national (RR) series started, we got results winning (the team) 12 out of the 13 rounds that year”.

“As a team, we had both bases covered. We’d control the races until we had Nathan up the road in a move and then it was up to others to control the chase. If they did bring it back, then I’d win the bunch kick so no matter what anyone else did, we seemed to get the upper hand on most of the teams.”

“My results in that series was enough to put me on Garmin’s feeder team (Chipotle-First Solar Development Team) where I had a successful season winning four UCI races and I jumped into the main team for 2013/14”.


A relaxed Steele listens as Dave Povall explains to his team the tactics for the days drills.

“When I was racing the national series in Australia, I was so green to it all, I didn’t expect to get the results I got because I was just mountain biking and taking the opportunities that were coming along.”

“Then I wanted to win the big races when I discovered I had the ability. But on Garmin, my role changed somewhat so my goals changed as well. My job there became more team orientated as I was leading out Tyler Farrar or Raymond Kreder and I didn’t get the opportunity to sprint all the time because most of the time I was helping a teammate.”

“I think I had six opportunities for me and podiumed in three of them, so didn’t think I did too badly.”

A new start with NFTO
Asked when the link with NFTO came about, Steele explained “I started talking to Pov (manager Dave Povall) at the end of last year when things with Garmin were on the edge and he was very happy to talking to me.”

“Straight away it was a no brainer. He wanted me on the team so for me to go somewhere I was wanted and for us to have the same common goals, was a great opportunity so I jumped on it.”

“Hopefully I will be able to get back into the winning routine I had in 2011 on the Avanti team. To try and get that winning feeling back and reignite the flame, there is no place better than to do that than with NFTO. I have been talking with the owner John (Wood) since arriving and he is so supportive of us”.


Steele and Ian Bibby, both new to NFTO in 2015, chat during their training ride on Monday

Steele showed in the Sun Tour on the final stage which is very hilly but on his local roads, that he could climb and also bridge across to a break so like many of the British sprinters like Chris Opie. It makes Steele a formidable opponent for the other team leaders because he is far more than a crit rider.

But which type of race floats his boat – the crit or the road race? “Believe it or not, as much as I love crit racing, I also like the challenge of the road race and that challenge is something I get nervous for.”

But it’s in the crits that he will get to show off the Green and Gold. Steele admits he loves to corner fast and explained that he will be looking to his NFTO team to help position him for his favourite bit, the sprint.

“I was so happy to win the crit jersey again because I know I can come over here and show it to the UK. Since it’s a very huge thing here, the crit racing, it’s going to be fantastic to be wear the green and gold”.

Asked if he’s spoken to any of the riders who have been to Britain before about the racing, Steele replied “I was on an Avanti team camp in the summer with Mark Obrien, who was on the Raleigh team, and he was filling me in on the ins and outs”. I also had teammates from Chipotle (Garmin dev team 2012) who have come over like Tom Scully for Madison Genesis, so it will be good to race with him again”.

Steele went on to say that as well as the domestic races, the UCI events are important as well and having podiumed on stages in the Tour of Britain, he’s hungry for success there as well. The Tour of Yorkshire and RideLondon may also suit him down to the ground as well being a rider who got to ride in some of the European classics in 2013/14 for Garmin.

Some of the races he rode in the early part of the 2014 season included Paris-Nice, E3, Tour of Flanders, Het Niewsblad, Kuurne Bruxelles Kuurne, and Scheldeprijs. “I loved the classics last year. I managed to get a start at the Tour of Flanders and I was in a good position but unfortunately my team leader had a mechanical.”

“There were only three of us guys left so I had to give him my bike and he came top 10 so it was job done for me but I wish I’d been able to stick in there and help even more and see how far I could have got in the race”.

The classics for him in 2015 will be a bit different LoL but expect to see Steele pinning a number on here shortly and getting his British season underway. Steele has already had 17 race days in 2015 but admits to being eager to get going.

“I had a bit of a break and now I am trying to build back up and this is what this team camp is for, to get the base miles back into the legs, meet the team and get things moving so when I pin a number back on, I can be competitive again”.


The NFTO team getting in some miles in the sunshine on Monday

Drilling it on the bike
Part of that getting moving is to go through the drills involved in cycling with his new teammates. Racing in Britain has changed a great deal over the decades and British teams now see the importance of bringing their riders together and as well as the physical training to bring them up to race level, there are the technical drills as well to help work as a unit instinctively in a race.

At the team camp this week is a major British star of racing in the 70’s who’s sprint was so good he beat the icon that is Eddy Merckx at Eastway in 1977 after chasing him down when he attacked late in the race.

Sid explained how in his day, there was none of this lead-out train business. He had to fight for the wheels and win on instinct which is how he liked it. So there he was on Monday’s first day of training, trying to help the ‘other’ team beat Von Hoff’s. They didn’t but it was all good experience for the 2015 team. Some of them had had helped Adam Blythe in 2014 whilst many had come from other teams so working together as a unit is something that has to be worked at.


Well wrapped up against the winter weather after coming from an Aussie summer.

By the end of this week, the team will have racked up many a mile together and completed many a drill as well before a few of them have their first race of 2015 at Severn Bridge. Not Von Hoff but that won’t be long in coming. Watch this space!

In the meantime, Steele is coming to terms that there are a lot of Aussie favourites that he can’t get in the British supermarket so he’s busy looking for some pies to take back to Girona because as any Aussie knows, meat pies are as Aussie as Kangaroos!

And finding a decent pie and winning races are not the only goals either. Whilst Steele has been to London with his girlfriend and done the tourist thing, as well as having seen parts of Britain doing corporate rides for his former team, there are other items on the bucket list such as seeing a Top Gear Live show and also going to the TT races on the Isle of Man.

It sounds like it’s going to be a very busy year for the Aussie on a mission! My thanks to Steele for the chat and good luck to him in 2015… time to get a big stick for that Aussie flag in the van!


Gold hubs for Steele’s bike – to match the Green and Gold of his champion’s jersey

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