With increasing popularity, a new professional team, a Tour de France champion and a new cavalcade of young stars on the horizon, Australian cycling appears to be entering a golden age.
Yes, Australian cycling is certainly in good shape right now. A lot can be attributed to Cadel Evans ground-breaking ride last year. Evans made history and his effort should ensure a whole host of young Aussies get on a bike to attempt to match his amazing feat, not to mention thousands of others watching on telly the next Tour and other cycling races.
The real affect of Evan’s win might not be seen for another 10-15 years. But as historic as it was, Evan’s capture of the yellow jersey isn’t the be-all and end-all. The Katherine-born boy will be 35 next month and it is unlikely that he will achieve glory in France again.
The simple truth is, Aussie cycling was already heading in the right direction before Evans’ famous win. Ratings for the Tour and participation rates have increased in Australia in the past few years, and the Nine Network’s capture of the rights for the Tour Down Under is another example that cycling is on the rise here. Evans’ victory has just further capped that off, the icing on the cake so to speak.
Success by the likes of Stuart O’Grady, Matt Goss, Robbie McEwen in recent years, not to mention Anna Meares and Kathy Watt, has helped put Australian cycling on the map.
And it seems our ranks are blessed at the moment with a new brigade of young riders eager to make their mark. In the male events this includes Jack Bobridge, Cameron Meyer, Mitchael Matthews, Riche Porte, Fabio Calabria, Jonathon Clarke, Simon Clarke, Will Clarke, Mitch Docker, Benjamin King, Joseph Lewis, Tim Roe, David Tanner and Cameron Wurf, to name a few.
Injury may have forced world champion Bobridge out of the Tour Down Under, but his prospects remain good. The 22-year-old GreenEDGE member is one of our best hopes heading into the London Olympics and a bright future lays ahead of him.
Meyer is the defending Tour Down Under champion, and the 24-year-old has been feted both here and overseas. He’ll focus on road events after the Olympics and plenty is expected of him.
Then there’s Matthews, a member of Rabobank, who in 2010 became the under 23 road race world champion. Tasmania’s Porte is another who had a breakout 2010 season, is now a member of Sky, and also has immense potential.
There’s also the up-and-coming 24-year-old Calabria, Clarke – who rode in both the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and the Tour of Britain in 2011 – and Clarke, winner of the 2008 under 23 national championship in Ballarat and a member of Italy-based team Amica Chips-Knauf.
Let’s not forget 26-year-old Will Clarke, Melbournian Mitch Docker (a former junior world champion and another GreenEDGE cyclist), WA’s Benjamin King, Canberra-based Joe Lewis, 22-year old Tim Roe (a member of the BMC Racing Team), 27-year-old road racer David Tanner (a member of Team Saxo Bank) and Cameron Wurf. Wurf is another Tasmanian on the pro tour, and is now affliated with Liquigas-Cannondale.
This is not a definitive list – there are other promising Aussie riders who are coming into their own. This country’s strength in riding talent is a good sign, but it does not mean future success is guaranteed or that cycling as a sport in Australia will continue to grow and grow.
Cycling has come along way, from the outside to the mainstream, and it should rightly enjoy its growing prominence on the crowed Aussie sporting stage.
But the key now is for the sport and its administration to use all these factors – Evans’ win, GreenEDGE’s creation, healthy TV ratings and the new brigade of riders – and the momentum behind them, to continue to expand. To add more sponsors, expand and create new races, and encourage more people to get on a bike and start peddling.
This perfect storm of positives may not been seen again, and it’s an event for Australian cycling to both savour and exploit.