And with that the latest Aussie road cycling summer has come to an end. As always there’s been no shortage of highlights and talking points. Top of our list were the epic rides by Jack Bobridge to claim his second National title at Mount Buninyong in early January and Simon Gerrans’ win on (Corkscrew Road) Stage 3 of the Tour Down Under, marking his return to form after a wretched run of injuries in 2015.
Caleb Ewan put on another summer sprinting clinic as has pretty much become the norm – can’t wait to see him mixing it with the rejuvenated Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel, Mark Cavendish and the decidedly slick young Columbian Fernando Gaviria over the course of the next few seasons. Also exciting was the GC ‘arrival’ of 23-year old Queenslander Jay McCarthy at the TDU, as well as the prospect of what a fit and fired up Richie Porte might be able to achieve for his new employers, BMC, when the big tours kick in over in Europe.
On non-riding matters, we were also highly encouraged by the increased use of Periscope and live streaming by Cycling Australia and its social media folks, providing glimpses of many of those races not deemed worthy of live coverage by the sport’s current broadcasters. It certainly beat no coverage at all.
Of course, there’s also been the usual assortment of hard luck stories and disappointments. It was a shame to see young Lucas Hamilton crash out of the recently completed Herald Sun Tour on Stage 1, he’s potentially one of Australia’s most exciting long-term GC prospects since Cadel Evans, and it would have been great to see him charging up Arthur’s Seat yesterday, possibly locking horns directly with the TDF champion, Chris Froome. Maybe next year.
Orica-GreenEDGE may not openly admit it, but they can’t be entirely happy having missed out on the National title for the second year running. Like pretty much everyone else, they really had their pants pulled down by Bobridge. At least their excellent week in Adelaide provided ample consolation. While on the subject of the bigger Aussie teams, it’s also been somewhat perplexing trying to gauge the overall performance of Drapac through the Australian summer. They’ve assembled a gun group of riders for 2016 and were consistently thereabouts in numbers at the pointy end of most races and stages, but rarely seemed willing – or able – to pull the trigger when it counted. Was it a case of stage fright against the big boys? Who knows? Either way the stats show the men in red and blue secured a lot of top 20s throughout the summer, yet very few podiums or even top 10s (save for the Herald Sun prologue and early criteriums around Geelong). On paper they certainly have the cattle to have a red hot crack, let’s hope they can re-find their mojo as the racing moves on to Asia, North America and Europe. Thankfully that’s the good thing about a long, long season – plenty of time to regroup.
So it’s now on to the Middle East and then Europe for the Spring Classics which essentially kick off with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on February 27 and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne a day later. Strade Bianche is March 5. Milano-Sanremo is March 19. Of course if stage races are more your thing, March 9-15 is Tirreno-Adriatico and March 6-13 is Paris-Nice. Be interesting to see if Richie Porte returns for the race to the sun…go Aussies.