It’s been a good week for up-and-coming Australian cyclists, in the Tour of Britain and at the road world championships.
Nathan Haas’ excellent second place in the Tour of Britain, following Leigh Howard’s stage win and several days leading the race, kicked things off nicely.
The good work was continued by Rohan Dennis and Damien Howson in Limburg, picking up second and third places respectively in the under 23 time trial.
This followed the strong performance of former world u23 time trial champion Luke Durbridge and Cameron Meyer in Orica-GreenEDGE’s team time trial bronze medal performance.
With Durbridge and Meyer still to ride in the senior time trial, there could be more to come.
First things first: the Tour of Britain was an exciting week for Aussie fans. Almost as exciting as it was for the thousands of British fans lining the route, clearly not yet burned out after a stunningly successful season on road and track.
Haas, in his first year as a professional riding for Garmin-Sharp, was rewarded for his consistency with his biggest career result to date. After crashing within sight of the finish on stage one he finished eighth, 11th, 13th, fourth, third, sixth, and 11th in the remaining stages.
Haas, 23, came to the attention of Garmin management after winning the 2011 Herald Sun Tour and the Japan Cup, and seems to be relishing the experience of travelling the world racing with his idols. Unfortunately his Twitter campaign to be retweeted by Mitt Romney seems to have fallen on deaf ears, but then Mitt probably has enough on his plate.
Meanwhile, Orica-GreenEDGE’s Howard managed to beat Mark Cavendish to the stage win in stage two then followed up with a second, third, and a fifth. He held the race lead after stage three and again after stage five but lost 33 seconds on stage six and eventually slipped to fourth overall – still a very good result for the 22 year old sprinter.
Beating Cavendish in a bunch sprint is some claim to fame, even for a bloke who’s won three world championships on the track.
Haas’ Garmin team-mate Steele Von Hoff (who really should be a 1970′s TV action hero, with a name like that) also bobbed up for second places in stages two and four
Given that Rohan Dennis has signed with Garmin-Sharp for 2013, it seems that Jonathan Vaughters still likes what he sees from Australia’s youngsters. Allan Peiper’s influence must help, too.
Dennis was a fairly hot favourite for the u23 time trial title, but had to settle for second place behind Russia’s Anton Vorobyev. Still, after a season where the Australian had focused on the much shorter (and flatter) 4000m team pursuit for the Olympics, it’s not altogether surprising that Dennis was beaten over a difficult 36km parcours.
The performance of Howson, who only recently turned 20, was perhaps less anticipated but also deeply encouraging. Howson plans to remain an amateur in 2013, but you can pencil him in as yet another one to watch in the coming years.
While all this was going on, it seems that Jack Bobridge’s time at Orica-GreenEDGE has come to an end, with the individual pursuit world record holder announcing that he has signed a two-year contract with Rabobank from 2013. It’s difficult to speculate as to his reasons for leaving, but for a rider of Bobridge’s ability it has been a frustrating season.
Admittedly he has focused heavily on the track, but being twice beaten into second place in the team pursuit by arch-rivals Great Britain, and following a well-publicised drink-driving incident in June, it’s probably fair to say that Bobridge will be eager for a fresh start in 2013.