2016 in Review – Australia

That is how we cycle in Australia because it is too darn hot otherwise. And yes that image was posted to an Australian tabloid in a half-satirical article about why we hate cyclists.

This is the first of my 2016 in review write-up’s, and as such if you have any criticism please comment! And this will be a male-centric analysis due to my lack of knowledge of the female peloton, but I will touch on one or two of the riders.

Australia as a whole nation in 2016 had a great season. The breakout season of Orica Bike-Exchange, Richie and Rohan fighting it out on BMC, Morton starring on the US Circuit and young-guns at home and in Europe. The success wasn’t limited to the Male Peloton either, with riders such as Lisen Hockings and Chloe Hoskings (special mention to her for winning La Course, it was a great victory on the Champs-Elysses) making a huge impact on the Womens stage too. Although there was a slightly disappointing showing at the two major international events, Worlds and the Olympics, there is huge potential for the nation in the future.

Australian National Championships 2016

As has been for the past 14 years since 2002, the Australian National Road Race Championships was held in Ballarat. The courses this year were quite undulating, with the both the Men’s Road Race and Time Trial having a number of hills to navigate over the 183.6km and 40.9km respectively. The Men’s Criterium course was 44km in total.

Starting with the Criterium, the 1.1km course along Sturt Street in Ballarat was done 40 times to make the 44km distance. Throughout the course of the race, plenty of attacks came out of the peloton, mostly from Drapac and Avanti trying to form a solid breakaway with a chance of staying out. Orica, however, was able to maintain control of the field for the whole race, allowing for the perfect lead-out for Caleb Ewan who improved on his 2nd from 2015 to finally don the Green and Gold in the Criterium. Durbridge, Haig and Docker were influential in setting up Ewan’s win, keeping him out of the wind all race. Ewan started his sprint after the final corner before winning convincingly. Defending champion Steele Von Hoff finished in 18th place after beating Ewan in a sprint in 2015.

The next day saw the field fight it out for the Time Trial jersey. The Men’s course was a 40.9km circuit out of Buninyong, seeing the riders having to ride over 3 hills, before finishing on a climb back into Buninyong. Going into the race, it was really a duel between the two big Australian Time Triallers, Richie Porte as the defending champion and the (arguably) most unlucky person in a National Time Trial ever, Rohan Dennis. In the three years prior, he had come second in 2013; had a DNF in 2014 after an almost certain victory was, literally, thrown into the wind as he was cleaned up by a mini-tornado; and came second again in 2015 by 7 seconds after he had a mechanical as well. The BMC Duo again starred in the Time Trial, this time Dennis trumping by 38 seconds. The Bronze was taken by Sean Lake from Avanti; who was in the hot seat all day before Dennis and Porte started.

The Queen Stage of the Championships took place on the 10th of January, with the Men’s Road Race. The 10.2km loop, which involved a 2.5km climb at around 6.3% was completed 18 times by the riders in the 183.6km course around Buninyong. Orica Bike-Exchange and their team were considered heavy favourites for the race, but the favourites were nowhere to be seen. After lap 2 of the course, Jack Bobridge broke away with a group, and although there were a few attempts to catch up to him, his 9 minute lead was too big to overcome and he won with 2:52 over Cam Meyer in Silver. OBE didn’t have any riders on the podium in the end, Gerrans being best placed in 6th. The win was surprising for Bobridge, having raced on the track all summer and not having the road experience, but he ended up pulling a solo break for 90km for the huge victory.

bobridge-nats

Jack Bobridge wins the National Road Race. Source: Con Chronis

The Three Big Australian Races – Tour Down Under, Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and Herald Sun Tour

In terms of Australian cycling locally; there are 3 big races in the Summer that every cyclist looks forward to. The Tour Down Under, Herald Sun Tour and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

The Tour Down Under is the biggest cycling race in Australia. It pulls thousands of spectators – up into the tens of thousands for the ride up Willunga Hill – for every stage and gets mainstream media coverage and broadcasting in Australia. For Adelaide it is a huge boost for their city having such a great race in their city. This year’s edition of the Tour Down Under was explosive and exciting as per usual. The first stage saw Ewan break out that now characteristic sprint over the handlebars to blitz the field in a great sprint after an otherwise slow stage from Prospect to Lyndoch. The sprinter found himself in Ochre for Day 2 into Stirling, which saw an early Adam Hansen attack into Stirling before being caught before the finish. In the bunch sprint, Jay McCarthy this time took the honours, beating out Diego Ulissi by a microscopic length and took the Ochre from Ewan. The Glenelg stage saw the heavy favourites come out and try gain an advantage over the peloton. Simon Gerrans in a reduced bunch took out the stage ahead of Rohan Dennis and leader McCarthy. Gerrans also took the sprint out in Victor Harbour on stage 4 to take an even bigger lead of 13 seconds over McCarthy and 26 and 36 seconds over Dennis and Porte respectively. Day 5 saw the iconic and famous Willunga Hill tackled by the riders (and me setting up a tent at 6am to watch the riders all day, was really fun). The King of Willunga Hill, Sir Richie Porte, broke away in dominant fashion to take out the stage, but wasn’t able to take enough time out of Gerrans’ lead to take the Ochre and saw Gerrans claim his 4th Ochre Jersey (maybe he should paint his walls Ochre because they would be full of the jerseys by now). The Adelaide City Circuit on Stage 6 saw Caleb Ewan break free early in the bunch sprint and absolutely blitz the rest of the field, taking another victory for OBE in a very successful TDU.

ewan-sprint

Caleb Ewan won 2 sprints in the TDU in 2016. Look at that aero. Source: The Advertiser

The TDU in 2017 looks quite different to previous editions. Stage One starts in Unley instead of Prospect before going through the Barossa to Lyndoch. Stage 2 starts where it normally finishes – in Stirling in a 5-lap circuit – before heading into the Adelaide Hills and finishing in Paracombe. Stage 3 starts as per usual in Glenelg and heads down south through Aldinga and the Fleurieu region into Victor Harbour. Stage 4 heads east from Norwood, before looping back into Campbelltown for the finish. Stage 5 – the Queen stage – remains unchanged from its three loops of Aldinga and two go’s up Willunga Hill; and Stage 6 is more or less the same circuit through Adelaide. With riders like Esteban Chaves and Peter Sagan confirming they will race in the TDU this year, it should be one of the most hotly contested WT races this year.

aldinga tdu.jpg

The town of Aldinga features twice in the TDU in 2017 – on Stage 3 and Stage 5. Source: Aldinga Bay Online

The Herald Sun Tour was once a race that only attracted Australian and smaller international riders. 2016 saw a stark change in the start list with cycling heavyweights like Chris Froome and Peter Kennaugh from Team Sky riding only ten days after the TDU. The 4-stage race (with a prologue) became a quite competitive race because of this. On the day 1 prologue – a 2.1km time trial around Melbourne – Will Clarke of Drapac took out the win in a time of 2:34; and 2nd place Ewan only 1 second behind him. The first stage, a loop around Healesville, saw the Sky duo dominate the day’s racing, breaking away and winning together with a 17 second lead over the rest of the bunch and saw Kennaugh don the Leader’s Jersey. Stage 2 saw Caleb Ewan win a duel against Tanner Putt (United HealthCare) after a punchy 1km climb only 7km from the finish, while leader Kennaugh only finished 3 seconds behind the duo. Stage 3 – Traralgon to Inverloch – saw American John Murphy take out a bunch sprint ahead of Niccolo Bonifazio and Steele Von Hoff. Stage 4 – the Queen stage around Arthurs Seat – saw Chris Froome break away from the bunch late on in the stage after collecting a 4 man break to win by 17 seconds over Damian Howson and take the Leader’s Jersey off his team-mate for his first race win of the season.

froome hst.jpg

Froome wins Stage 4 of the Herald Sun Tour. Source: Herald Sun Tour

The 2017 edition of the Herald Sun Tour sees a similar parcours but more internationally renowned riders like Esteban Chaves have confirmed that they will attend the once-small Australian tour. Hopefully in the future this tour can become a launching pad for the season for the World’s biggest riders after the TDU.

The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race got a promotion in 2016 to 1.HC, and attracted many more international riders than previous editions. The 174km one-day race – only in its second year – saw Peter Kennaugh, Mark Cavendish and Adam Hansen attend while returning champion Meersman couldn’t make it. A quartet of riders: Lane (Avanti Isowhey), De Marchi (BMC), Berry (St George Merida) and Hegyvary (United HealthCare) broke away after the 30km sprint point and gained a lead of over 6 minutes after 50km; before the peloton started to bring them back in with 100km to go. As the breakaway whittled away, Lane decided to attack on the KoM climb and with it took home both the sprint jersey from the earlier intermediate sprint and the KoM jersey with the climb. On the last lap, the peloton broke up due to an increase of intensity by Katusha and Lotto Soudal, before Peter Kennaugh of Team Sky attempted to one-up his 2nd place at the Herald Sun Tour only days earlier. He broke away with about 10km to broke, on a solo break, and quickly made a 20 second lead on the rest of the pack. Attacks from Adam Hansen, Leigh Howard and other riders tried to reel Kennaugh back in, but he won with a 6 second lead over the rest of the pack, leaving Howard and Bonifazio to claim the podium scraps. 2017 sees the Great Ocean Road Race promoted once again, and is now a 1.UWT event. Because of its place as a WT event, it will attract more major riders like Froome and Sagan to contest what can be considered Australia’s own classic. However, without an Australian winner, it will be interesting to see if more of the Aussies attend and try to claim the win in the name of the only Australian to win the TDF.

kennaugh cegorr.jpg

Kennaugh took a solo break win at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Source: Con Chronis

Subaru NRS 2016

In 2016, the Subaru NRS (National Road Series) entered its 25th season, and there were surprises and dominance in both the Men’s and Women’s Peloton.

The breakdown of NRS events are as follows:

Santos Adelaide Tour (SA) 16-20 January Women
CEGORR (VIC) 30-Jan Women
Mersey Valley Tour 29 April – 1 May Women / U19
Grafton to Inverell 7 May Men
Battle on the Border 13-15 May Men
Battle on the Border 3-5 June Women
Tour de Perth 10-12 June Men
Tour of the Great South Coast 10-14 August Men
Sam Miranda King Valley 19-21 August Men/Women
Tour of Gippsland 31 August-4 September Men
Amy’s Otway Classic 10-11 September Women
National Capital Tour 16-18 September Men / Women
Tour of Tasmania 1-6 October Men
Melbourne to Warrnambool 15 October Men

Riders earn points for every race, and whoever has the most points at the end of the year wins the NRS title. The NRS consists of Australian-based PCT and CT teams, Avanti Iso-Whey Sports and State of Matter MAAP Racing (in the Men’s Peloton); High5 Dream Team and Rush Women’s Team (in the Women’s Peloton) are some of the more notable inclusions. It’s a strong base for National Cycling in Australia, but isn’t popular due to a lack of sponsorship and advertising of events – but that is enough for the political side of the NRS.

In the Men’s Peloton, Avanti Iso-Whey Sports were dominant throughout the whole season. At the end of the season, they had the podium in a block-out; Joseph Cooper (a Kiwi) topping the Series with 48 points, Patrick Shaw on 44 and Sam Crome on 24. This was Cooper’s second NRS win in a row, he has been completely dominant the past few years. They as a team had 4 of the top 5 riders individually and won the Team’s Classification by 122 points (182 points, Mobius Future Racing was next closest with 60). As a team, they won 8 of the 10 events (on GC) throughout the whole year, with many more stages won.

joe-cooper-nrs

Cooper won the National Capital Tour on his way to his 2nd NRS win. Source: Cycling Australia

In the Women’s Peloton, there was a wonder story. Lisen Hockings went from a local Criterium racer in 2015 to riding in her first NRS in 2016 at age 37. With 16th at the Nats Road Race, 8th in the Oceanic Championships Time Trial and 3rd at the Oceanic Road Race, she was picked up 3 races into the NRS season by Holden Women’s Racing Team, after riding for High5 Dream Team in the Mersey Valley Tour – her first NRS race – and coming second overall with a stage win. She finished with one Tour win, 2 stage victories and 7 podiums to win the NRS on 50 points, 7 points ahead of Lucy Kennedy from High5 Dream Team and Rush’s Ruth Corset 2 points further back. High5 took out the Teams Classification on 117 points, with Holden on 68 points and Rush on 53 points.

hockings-mersey-valley

Hockings on her way to a stage victory at the Mersey Valley Tour. Source: Caitlin Johnston

For the future of the National Road Series – it is looking bright. Cycling Australia is attempting to land a broadcasting deal to publicise a few of the races on the Tour, and the provisional calendar sees 16 more race days and more races including the return of Tour of Goldfields and the Goulburn to Sydney race, in a re-incarnated reversed version – the Camden to Goulburn. In the past I have been very critical of how the NRS has been publicised in terms of sponsorship and coverage, and this provisional calendar and potential broadcasting deal could help develop the pro cycling scene in Australia.

Break-out: Orica-BikeExchange

This years break-out in Australian Cycling is undoubtably the rise of Orica-BikeExchange. Or Orica-GreenEdge, depending on which period of the season we are talking about. Either way, under both names they completely whipped up the European scene into a storm. The success started at the Tour Down Under (discussed earlier) with Simon Gerrans winning the GC and Caleb Ewan having a stint in Ochre as well.

When the European races started, OGE/OBE started to excel. A top 10 for Simon Yates at Paris-Nice as well as Matthews having a stint in Yellow and 2 stage wins was a great performance which only was the start of things to come. Jens Keukeleire wrapped up a top 5 at Dwars door Vlaanderen after a strong performance from Turbo Durbo to bring back a strong breakaway containing GVA.

Paris-Roubaix. This race in itself deserves a full thesis write-up submitted for a doctorate, but I will keep it concise. Matthew Hayman broke into a group midway through the race including Tom Boonen and Ian Stannard, all 3 known for their one-day racing ability. Hayman with about 15km to go started to fall off the back of the lead group, but fought back with around 10km to go to catch back on, all the while with Sep Vanmarcke attacking off the front trying to gain a slight advantage over the 5 man break. Hayman attacked with just under 3km to go, but the group went into the velodrome together as 5. Hayman, Vanmarcke, Stannard, Boonen, Boasson Hagen. Spot the winner. If you couldn’t tell by my setting up, Hayman won in a bunch sprint, edging out Boonen just. Even writing this I get emotional, so I will direct you to the Back Stage Pass to truly capture the excellence of Hayman’s win. He will forever be a legend for this performance, his first win in his 15th appearance; 3rd professional win and it’s a monument. Good on ya, Mr. Paris-Roubaix.

hayman roubaix.jpg

The face of a champion. A legend. A monumental win from Hayman. Source: ASO/E. Garnier

OBE continued their great performances. Matthews got 5th at a surprising Amstel Gold Race which saw Gasparotto from Wanty Groupe-Gobert, a Belgium PCT team, win the bunch sprint. Albasini finished 7th in La Fleche-Wallonie, and backed it up coming second in Liege-Bastogne-Liege behind Wout Poels in what was Sky’s first monument and winning a stage at the Tour de Romandie.

At the Giro d’Italia, Chaves came second on GC in what was a hotly contested race from Stage 1 all the way through the Italian Mountains. For OBE, it was their first ever GC podium (which they got used to by the end of the year). After winning Stage 14 to Corvara, Chaves was just marginally behind Nibali and Kruijswijk heading further into the Mountains. Following Kruijswijk’s crash on Stage 19, Chaves had a 44 second buffer on Nibali heading into Stage 20; but was unable to hold onto the lead. A very impressive 2nd place followed however, definitely boosting the OBE morale into the other Grand Tours.

chaves-giro

Chaves spent Stage 20 of the Giro in Pink. Sadly, he didn’t wear it into Torino. Source: Sky Sports

Haig excelled at the Tour de Slovenie, coming second on GC and wrapping up the points jersey, as well as a stage win from Keukeleire. Adam Yates placed top 10 at the Criterium de Dauphine, in what was a set up for a bit of TDF magic. OBE’s performance at the Tour was highly unexpected. Names like Froome, Porte, Quintana, Contador were expected to dominate. A crash to Contador on Stage 1 and multiple mechanicals to Porte forced them out of the race before it even heated up in the mountains. Quintana melted into a mess in the mountains (but fought back valiantly for 3rd). While Froome dominated, and Bardet snuck up on the GC in the last week, there was one young British rider lurking in the background slowly making an impact on GC. Adam Yates. Through the mountains, he just held onto the back of the big names, and excelled. He rode his heart out into the top 5, and the White Jersey for the whole tour. By the end of the Tour, he was 21 seconds off the podium behind Quintana; but his performance for someone his age absolutely stunned everyone. Another highlight for OBE in the Tour was Matthew’s Stage 10 victory, headed by Impey’s and Durbo’s insane leading out over the last 10 kilometers, and Matthews sprinting for the win ahead of Boasson Hagen and bitter rival Sagan. And this also produced one of my favourite photos ever (it has been my computer background since the stage win).

yates-tdf

Yates took the White Jersey home for OBE at the Tour de France. Source: AFP/Archives

Orica’s success didn’t stop at the Tour though. Matthews continued his sprinting form at the RideLondon Classic, coming 3rd behind Boonen and fellow Aussie Mark Renshaw, and 4th at the Bretagne Classic. Caleb Ewan took out a surprise win at the Cyclassics Hamburg, outsprinting favourites Degenkolb, Kristoff and Gronewegen; and with a bit of luck after Bouhanni’s disqualification for erratic riding. This brings us to the last grand tour of the year, the Vuelta a Espana. A 3rd on the opening Team Time Trial, Cort then sprinted himself into 3rd on Stage 2, losing out to Gianni Meersman. OBE’s first stage win came on Stage 6; a stunning breakaway from Simon Yates in the last few kilometers saw him break 20 seconds free of the field and keep it up all the way to the line. With Simon Yates and Chaves consistently finishing in the top 10 on each Mountain stage, the GC was looking bright for OBE in the heading into the end of the Tour. Keukeleire took a stage win, sprinting ahead in a reduced bunch sprint and never looking in doubt. Magnus Cort took his first of two stage wins on Stage 18 with an explosive sprint on an otherwise un-eventful day. The stage 19 set Chaves’ hopes of a podium GC back, with Contador gaining a lead onto him pushing him back into 4th, but a strong breakaway on the penultimate stage away from the main bunch saw him claw back 1:24 on Contador and take back 3rd on GC. Yates also finished up 6th, 8:33 behind winner Nairo Quintana. Orica’s success didn’t stop there at La Vuelta, pinching a Stage 21 win in the bunch sprint from Magnus Cort into Madrid; topping off a very successful Vuelta for OBE – 4 stage wins, 2 top 10’s in GC and a strong team performance truly asserting their dominance on the pro peloton for years to come.

cort-madrid

Magnus Cort took OBE’s success all the way to Madrid, winning the last sprint. Source: Yuzuru Sunada

As the season was wrapping up, the results still came in. Caleb Ewan had a 2nd place and a 4th place on two stages at the Tour of Britain, with first-year Luka Mezgec taking 3 top 10’s as well. At the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec and Montreal, Matthews finished 5th and 4th respectively in the two Canadian events, just outside the battle between Sagan and Van Avermaet. Svein Tuft and Luke Durbridge went to the Duo Normand this year and took the honours, beating the field by 1:31 in a strong TT performance. At the Abu Dhabi Tour, Cort and Matthews took a combined 3 top 10’s; and Luka Mezgec finished off his season strongly with a 9th place at Paris-Tours. But the last great success for OBE this year was Chaves’ great win at Il Lombardia. Breaking away with Uran and Rosa, he came into the straight needing a miracle in what was to be a sprint with two much stronger compatriots. But, he pulled ahead with only a handful of meters to go, and came out with enough time to celebrate over the line. He rode strongly all day, breaking away at the base of the Selvino with 4 riders and a handful of kilometers to go, blew away the bunch, then lastly blew away his break-mates.

chaves-lombardia

Chaves, you legend – beating Diego Rosa and Rigoberto Uran at Il Lombardia in a sprint no one expected him to win. Source: Tim de Waele.

In summary, Orica’s 2016 season is the start of something special. Two wins in the classics gives me good viewing over the off-season hiatus, but 3 top 5’s in the 3 Grand Tours, including two podiums and a Youth Classification win; and dozens of stage and race wins over the season demonstrate how this team from Australia has done wonders on the World Tour. For 2017, they have managed to retain most of their riders except for Michael Matthews, but gained Roman Kreuziger from the disbanding Tinkoff; who came 10th in the TDF after team leader Contador was forced to abandon. With this new GC firepower, they are setting themselves up to be a real contender for the GTs. Here’s to a successful 2017!

Australians on the WT

Australians outside of OBE have also had an impact on the WorldTour – surprisingly. You would have thought my obsession with Orica would tell you that the only WorldTour team was in fact OBE. But in fact there are others – others I say! Let’s start with the big two, Richie Porte and Rohan Dennis from BMC. Richie Porte this year had some textbook luck at the TDF, having a mechanical on the first stage and never being able to recover. He finished a very good fifth, and if you take out time lost from the mechanical he had a podium. He also had 4 top 5’s in 4 other WorldTour races. 2nd at the season opener in the Tour Down Under was a great start, along with another win up Willunga Hill on what was an insane ride again. He then started up in Europe with Paris-Nice with a podium, coming 3rd on the Nice-Nice stage and 4th up La Madone d’Utelle. He beat out team-mate TeJay Van Garderen in the Volta a Catalunya, achieving 4th. Two stage runner-ups at Criterium de Dauphine saw him get 4th on GC as well. Richie’s season can be summed up in a sense of unluckiness – crashing at the Olympics ruling him out for the rest of the season, mechanicals at Le Tour and a fair few bridesmaid performances, but never really reaching the top. Hopefully he recovers solidly from his shoulder injury and can come out fighting next year at the TDU!

richie-willunga-hill

Petition to rename Willunga Hill to Richie Rise? Or Porte’s Climb? Source: Tim Bardsley-Smith.

Rohan Dennis had an equally unlucky year, but can be summed up at different events. While holding the lead at the Eneco Tour after two brilliant stage wins, a crash on Stage 7 saw him retire from the race he was in pole position to win. The two other races where he was really given free reign was the Tour of Britain and Tour of California, and he did great. Early on in the season, he grabbed second on GC at the Tour of California with a stage win on the individual time trial in Folsom. Another great performance at the Tour of Britain saw him get second on GC, and a win on the Bristol stage after second on the 7a time trial. For the rest of the season, he played second fiddle to the other BMC heavyweights, Porte, TVG etc. He led out BMC for the first two weeks of Le Tour before retiring on the rest day for the Olympics, which went very swimmingly…yes. He was intended to be a right-hand-man for Richie at the Volta a Catalunya before being struck down by illness. And to top it off he was off his game at the Worlds time trial too. Again more unluckiness in the Australian BMC camp so hopefully he can back up his Australian TT Champs performance next year, regain the jersey and head on strong.

Jay McCarthy continued to make a name for himself on the WorldTour this year. He had a huge performance at the Tour Down Under this year, getting a stage win, a day in Ochre and winning the Youth Classification and 4th overall. He showed himself as both a sprinter and a climber, a quite punchy rider. He continued into Europe, putting lots of hours into the early one-day races such as Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (53rd), Strade Bianche (13th), Dwars Door Vlaanderen (DNF), E3 Haralbeke (63rd) and Amstel Gold Race (DNF). He then placed 13th at the Tour of Croatia, before racing in the Giro d’Italia with one top 10 on the final stage. His season came to an abrupt end at the Arctic Race of Norway, but his early season performances show lots of hope for when he rides at Bora-Hansgrohe next year.

jay-ochre

Jay McCarthy spent 1 day in Ochre at the TDU, and the rest in White. Source: Sarah Reed

Heinrich Haussler didn’t attend the Nats to defend his Road Race title this year, but went straight into the European season. He placed 7th at Milan San-Remo, 16th at E3 Harelbeke and 6th at Paris-Roubaix in a strong start to the one-day season. He continued this form into the Giro, getting one top 10 into Bibione. Before retiring in Stage 5 at the Tour of Poland, he took two top 5’s in sprints and was 5th on GC. He then rode more one-dayers at the Cyclassics Hamburg (18th), the Bretagne Classic – Ouest-France (11th) and the Quebec/Montreal double (46th/78th). Haussler spent a lot of time focusing on the classics and one-day races this year, and hopefully at Bahrein-Merida he can get a similar role on the classics and maybe come away with a win to get back in the books.

Adam Hansen, the Grand Tour veteran, spent another May, July and August/September in the saddle, breaking records along the way. When you are riding 3 GT’s a year you can’t do much else, but he still finished the Tour Down Under, the Great Ocean Road Race, Paris-Nice and Milan San-Remo. He also got a 5th place on GC at the Presidential Tour of Turkey. He then valiantly fought through all 3 Grand Tours as an absolute weapon at a young 35 years old. He has another year on his contract, which just means another 3 solid Grand Tours from the veteran, but I hope to see him at the Tour Down Under again!

hansen tdu.jpg

Hansen breaks away into Stirling. I was there on that stage. This is my photo. Was a huge atmosphere here and later on when I went to the finish line. I also took this after riding 40km up Mt Lofty from Unley so the quality is a bit shaky.

Nathan Haas had a few good performances this year, which is a bit shock-horror for the Australians this year. He grabbed 6th on the Great Ocean Road Race after a solid performance at the Tour Down Under. Although he had DNF’s at Milan San-Remo and Amstel Gold, he protected riders like EBH and Serge Pauwels on the tough classics. After getting some more freedom after the Classics season, he won the Mountains Classification at the Tour of Yorkshire and two top 10’s in the Tour of California. Although he didn’t finish the Criterium de Dauphine, and was outside of the time limit on Stage 12 of the Vuelta, he took a stage win at Vuelta a Burgos and two top 10’s at the Quebec/Montreal double (5th/6th). Haas has another year on his contract at Dimension Data, hopefully he can continue the form and maybe help Lachlan Morton on his way into the WorldTour.

Jack Bobridge started his season in the best fashion possible, claiming a spectacular solo win at the National Road Race Championships – which saw him don the Green and Gold for the year. However, his season only went downhill from there. Although being able to finish the TDU (33rd), get a 4th place at the hotly contested Herald Sun Tour and finish the Giro (156th, getting the Lanterne Rouge), his season was cut after the Bretagne Classic due to illness and injury. Set to line up at the Tour of Britain as well, fatigue set in and he decided to head home to be with his family. The 27 year old found himself contemplating retirement at the end of the season, and hasn’t landed an extension with Trek Segafredo, leaving his career in apparent limbo. For a rider who would have had such high hopes for this season after a great high, the downfall of Bobridge has been one of unluckiness and sadness. Personally, I doubt that he will ride with a WT team next year – he might focus on his track racing or retire to wind down with the family – but for the sake of such a great talent it would be good to see him on the road again.

bobridge herald sun.jpg

Other than the National Road Race, Jack Bobridge’s best performance was at the Herald Sun Tour. Shame his season was cut short. Source: Sarah Reed

Rory Sutherland, Movistar’s valiant domestique, again found himself helping team leaders Quintana and Valverde. The 34 year old again completed the Giro-Vuelta double, helping his teammate Quintana win the Vuelta in great fashion. He raced in the TDU (77th), Liege-Bastogne-Liege (118th), La Fleche Wallonie (143rd) and the Amstel Gold Race (DNF). With another two years on his contract, Sutherland will probably be racing for his team leaders again before heading into retirement after 2018. I rate him highly as a domestique, and although his results might not reflect him being a ‘great rider’, his selfless work for the team behind the scenes means that Movistar can succeed in the major races; and he does it in spectacular fashion.

Mark Renshaw’s season saw him attend many smaller Tours and the Classics to attempt to claim a couple of sprint wins. However, his two second places (both behind Caleb Ewan) at the Tour Down Under on Stage 1 and Stage 6 can really sum up his unlucky year. Unable to clinch a race win all season, he was the bridesmaid 3 times and had 5 top 5’s. He came second at the RideLondon Classic, 7th at the Cyclassics Hamburg and 5th at the Rund um Koln. Although he finished races such as the Tour of Croatia, Dubai Tour, Abu Dhabi Tour, Tour of Qatar and the Tour of California, he didn’t see success at all this season. He also ended up pulling out of Le Tour de France 10 stages earlier than last season. With two more years on his Dimension Data contract, and DD gaining WT status for another two years, hopefully his luck can change and instead of being the bridesmaid, he can be the bride.

renshaw ridelondon.jpg

Renshaw (black kit) was a bridesmaid at the RideLondon Classic. Source: Prudential Ride London

Leigh Howard made a name for himself early this season on IAM Cycling after 4 years at OGE, coming second in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and winning the Clasica de Almeria. Racing many classics this year with IAM, such as Milan-Sanremo (47th), Dwars door Vlaanderen (42nd), E3 Harelbeke (DNF) and Gent-Wevelgem (DNF), he also managed to get to Stage 14 in the Giro and complete Le Tour (best placing: 13th on Stage 21 of TDF). Before pulling out of the Tour des Fjords, he won Stage 1 and came second in Stage 2. Although this year he made quite the portfolio for himself, the disbanding of IAM saw him without a WT contract and he signed for new PCT team Aqua Blue Sport. Given Aqua Blue Sport’s line up, I can see him becoming a sprint leader for them and taking many classics wildcards and hopefully claiming a win for the Irish based team.

There are a number of other Aussies on the WT: Meyer, Goss (retired this year), Tanner, Flakemore, Clarke (won at GP Industria this year) and so many more; but I went through the 10 most prominent on the WorldTour this year. The list next year will only get bigger with riders like Morton and Scotson signing on for WorldTour teams so hopefully we can get more luck as a nation next year and perform at our peak, finally.

Australia at the Olympics

Let’s pretend this didn’t happen okay? The parcours was stupid, the Olympics shouldn’t have been held in Brazil, Richie got f***ed over blah blah.

richie olympics.jpg

Richie and Simon’s faces here really sum me up watching the Olympics. Source: SBS

But, because this is a review, I guess I should do it. Australia going into the Olympics had high expectations. Rohan Dennis was favourite to win the Time Trial and Porte was up there to win the Road Race. We were forced to make a substitute for the race, Gerrans out with an injury brought Simon Clarke from OBE in; and field a MTB rider in Scott Bowden after we had a 4th slot no one could fill. Not even Matthews? Haig? Morton? ANYONE? Not to hate on Bowden because he did his best in the end but we had no other road cyclists to take? Anyways…

The Men’s Time Trial saw Rohan Dennis finish 5th in a tough field which saw Spartacus win in outstanding fashion in what was to be his last Olympic TT. Dennis, looking set for a podium, had a bike change with 15km to go due to an aero bar breakage, costing him his chance of a podium.

But the Australia bad luck didn’t end there. Richie Porte acquired two dropped chains on the cobbles before crashing on the decent breaking his shoulder. Rohan Dennis had a bad day on the bike with numerous issues before pulling out. Bowden did his valiant best on a bike with wheels half the width than he expected when he landed in Rio, and pulled out after trying to give man power to the extremely down-and-out Australian team. Simon Clarke was the last man standing, where he finished…somewhere down the line. 25th. I’ve said enough about this for now. Never speak of this again.

porte crash olympics.jpg

You can hear the hearts of 24 million Australians break as Richie crashes over the edge, breaking his shoulder. I’ll take the bike though. Source: Rio Olympics/NBC

(The women’s team had similar luck on the road at the Olympics, so I spent my time watching the track cycling where we actually won stuff. Carry on for more analysis.)

Australia at Worlds

Australia went into Worlds with high expectations to make up for a highly disappointing Olympics. OBE went into the Team Time Trial as a podium favourite, and didn’t disappoint with a Bronze medal overall, behind Time Trial giants Etixx and BMC. The Men’s Time Trial saw Turbo Durbo and Rohan Dennis hit the streets (read: deserts) of Doha to fight it out for the Rainbow. Dennis had a slightly disappointing time trial, he was looking favourable at the start but fell off near the end to finish 6th. Durbridge finished a solid 18th, 2:28 behind winner Tony Martin.

dennis-tt

Dennis belts out the high cadence at Doha in the Green and Gold. Source: Graham Watson

The Men’s Road Race saw a hectic start with a break of 7 gaining an 11 minute lead on the flat street circuit, but that was never going to hold up. Back in the peloton, echelons tore the field apart at about 176km to go. Beneficiaries: the Belgium team who had the majority of riders in the lead group. Norway also had a strong contigent, and Sagan himself made a huge bridge to catch back up. However, the Germans and Dutch were caught out in this; Gronewegen was left out to dry falling off the back ruining all but one of the Dutch hopes in Terpstra, and Germany had all their eggs in the second group; with Degenkolb trying to drag Greipel and Kittel back up to the main group, getting within 1:15, but never being able to rejoin. They eventually abandoned. The French weren’t too fond of the split either, losing all of their hope of a victory with no riders in the front group. Michael Matthews and Matthew “Mr. Paris-Roubaix” Hayman were the two Aussies in the front group. A breakaway from Tom Leezer in the final 3 kilometers almost saw him cross the line in a surprise victory, but he was pulled back in with 500m to go, leading to a bunch sprint where Boonen, Kristoff, Matthews, Cavendish and Sagan were the favourites. After a strong leadout, Matthews didn’t have the firepower and finished in 4th just off the podium. The performance from Australia in the Road Race was strong given that there were only two Aussies in the front, but Matthews and Hayman made good work of what were the scraps in an intense race and almost pulled it off.

matthews-worlds

Matthews (behind Cavendish, right) came 4th in a tight bunch sprint which saw Sagan regain the Rainbow Jersey. Source: Yuzuru Sunada

Other notable performances at Worlds for Australia saw Miles Scotson get 3rd in the U23 Men’s Time Trial, Jason Lowndes get 6th in the U23 Men’s Road Race and Katrin Garfoot come 3rd in the Women’s Time Trial.

Overall, Australia went into Worlds with hopes of at least one gold, and although they came out of it with a few bronze medals, good performances from Matthews, Garfoot and Scotson show potential for the future. Chloe Hosking should be up there in the future as well in the Women’s Road Race.

Future of Australian Cycling – The Young Guns

Here is where I get to use my psychic powers and attempt to predict the future of Australian Cycling a few years down the track. My psychic radar might be out, but it will be good to compare in the future how wrong I was!

I am going to start off this section with a pretty established rider who has just had a huge break out season on the US Circuit. Lachlan Morton has been on the WorldTour circuit before, riding with Garmin Sharp in 2012-2014. He has ridden the Tour Down Under 2 times, and has had experience in Europe from his Garmin days, but a shift to Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis has seen him shine on the US Circuit. 2015 saw him finish 3rd in the Tour of California Mountains Classification, top 10’s in the Tour de Beauce, Tour of Utah and USA Pro Challenge. In 2016, he won the Tour of the Gila, came 4th in the Tour de Beauce, had 4 stage wins over the whole season; but undeniably his biggest victory of the season was the Tour of Utah. He took out two mountains stages; Stage 3 to Payson and Stage 7’s Park City Loop. He rubbed shoulders with Atapuma and Talansky – and beat them. Convincingly. In 2017, he has signed with Dimension Data, who (I hope) will take him to a few European races for him to either ride for the mountains classification or for GC – I can see him doing smaller races like the Criterium de Dauphine and Volta a Catalunya this year but hopefully his career progresses to something bigger!

lachlan-morton-s7-utah

Lachlan Morton wins Stage 7, and the GC, of the Tour of Utah. Source: Jen See

Lucas Hamilton is the next big thing in Australian cycling in my opinion. In 2014 he came first in the National and Oceanic Juniors Road Race and 2nd at the National Juniors Time Trial. His 2016 season saw him ride around in Europe and Australia. He had a top 15 in the notorious Tour Down Under stage up Willunga Hill riding for UniSA. He then flew over to Europe and had 2 top 5’s in the An Post Ras and a GC podium. He also had a 2nd place on the Tour de l’Avenir Stage 8 gruelling Mountains stage and won the Mountains Classification there. He then placed in the top 15 on the Youth Classification (how does that even work?!) and Mountains Classification of the Olympia’s Tour. His great performances in Europe at the ripe old age of 20 suggests that he is a great one for the future of Australian Cycling – hopefully he can land a contract in the new few years.

Jack Haig’s performances on the WorldTour this year for OBE have been outstanding. Acting as a domestique for the more experienced Chaves and Gerrans, he finished La Vuelta this year, came second in the Tour de Slovenie, 5th in the Herald Sun Tour and finished top 15 in the Youth Classifications at the Volta a Catalunya (14th), Tour de Romandie (6th) and Criterium de Dauphine (9th). Focusing more on his Vuelta performance (I adopted him as my rider on /r/peloton), he helped out Chaves early on in the race and prepared Cort’s victory on Stage 18 with a nice early leadout. His WorldTour work has been insane this year, and in the future I can see him being a second-on-the-road rider or a super-domestique for bigger riders – his work for Chaves proving that.

haig-crit

Jack Haig leads out Caleb Ewan in the National Criterium Championship. Source: Con Chronis

Jai Hindley is another Aussie making an impact on the U23 European Scene. Riding under the Jayco-AIS WorldTour Academy in Europe, he had many stunning performances. Starting off his year with a Youth Jersey Podium at the Herald Sun Tour, he then flew over to Europe and finished top 10 in the Fleche Ardennaise and won the GP Capodarco. He came second at a hotly contested An Post Ras, with 3 stage top 10’s; and he continued this form into the Tour l’Avenir with 2 stage top 10’s and 5th on GC. He then completed the Olympia’s Tour, and while he came 34th on GC, his future is looking very bright for his great performances in Europe. Although only riding for a CT team at the moment, hopefully he can be picked up in the higher ranks in the upcoming years.

Ben O’Connor made a big impact on the U23 European Road Scene in 2016, which saw him get a call-up to Dimension Data for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. He finished 3rd in the U23 National Time Trial and top 10 in the Road Race. He then went on to win the New Zealand Cycle Classic GC, come 3rd in the Tour of Taiwan, 3rd in the Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc and many more participation in other European races. He flaunted his climbing ability during the 2016 season as well, with a stage victory as well at the New Zealand Cycle Classic on the hilly Admiral Hill stage and 3rd on the Queen Stage at the Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc. Signing with Dimension Data for 2017, hopefully he can get some more European race experience and become a future GC rider or super-domestique.

Jesse Kerrison has been making ground on the Australian riding scene in the NRS and smaller UCI races around Asia. In 2015 he rode for the BMC Development Squad in Europe, gaining some great experience that he carried into his 2016 season. He had two podiums at the New Zealand Cycle Classic, another podium at the Tour of Qinghai Lake, a top 5 at the Herald Sun Tour and a Stage 1 victory at the Tour de Kumano. He also had a couple of wins at the NRS this year, making him a possible Aussie Sprinter to see on the WT stage in a few years.

kerrison-crit

Kerrison also won the U23 Nats Criterium. Source: Cycling Australia

Miles Scotson, a time-trial specialist, had strong performances at the Olympia’s Tour and Worlds this year, seeing him getting a contract with Wanty Groupe-Gobert as a trainee. At the Olympia’s Tour he placed 2nd in the stage 1 TTT and won the stage 3a ITT. He also placed Bronze at the World Championships, just after the hugely dominant German duo in Mathis and Schachmann. Although this year he didn’t complete many races, hopefully his signing this year with BMC will see him get some European experience and become a time-trialler for the future.

That’s a wrap for Australian Cycling in 2016. Hopefully 2017 can see even more success for my great nation! I tried to be a bit humourous in this but I didn’t do a great job as I tried to juggle humour with insight and unbiased (not really) review. I know, hard for me. But anyways, thanks for reading, I’m out. Time to watch Paris-Roubaix again.

~ The Cycling Raven