The surprising thing about the Under-23 World Time Trial Championships

Tom Palmer Columnist

By Tom Palmer, Tom Palmer is a Roar Expert

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    Rohan Dennis grabs the prized yellow jersey following the Tour de France opener. (AFP PHOTO / JEFF PACHOUD)

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    The Under-23 World Time Trial Championships threw up some surprising developments, and some unsurprising ones.

    The unsurprising development was that Campbell Flakemore won. The likeable Tasmanian has had an impressively linear progression in the discipline. Just four weeks prior he showed his class and versatility bagging a victory in the prologue at the Tour de l’Avenir.

    So far he isn’t signed with a professional team, but in my experience of racing with the guy, he would be a valuable addition to any.

    Surprising was that in a field of 63 riders, the Australian team only bothered to field one competitor, despite having qualified three spots.

    According to UCI policy, which is available from the UCI website, every nation is entitled to enter four riders of which two may compete. As well as these two automatic spots, an additional spot is awarded to the current Oceania Champion.

    That Oceania Champion is an Australian. Harry Carpenter is a very promising rider who took out the event earlier this year. Carpenter represented Australia in a time trial less than 10 days before the worlds, just over the border in France at Chrono Champenois. There’s no doubt he was on hand to take up his spot at the worlds in Spain.

    Cycling Australia’s official selection criteria document makes room for denying eligible riders a ride. It says: “Cycling Australia (CA) reserves the right to not fill UCI quotas.” But the question remains why did it block riders in this case?

    Our national team has sufficient funding and resources on hand to field ten riders and frankly we probably have enough talented candidates to field twenty. So why couldn’t we let at least two have a crack?

    The current Australian Champion in the event is Drapac Pro Cycling’s Jordan Kerby. At the Chrono Champenois – the traditional final preparation race for the worlds – Flakemore was third and 38 seconds off the winner. Kerby was ninth – 1 minute and 12 seconds behind him.

    So our U23 Australian and Oceania time trial champions were both down the road, ready to go, and they weren’t awarded a start. If there was some secret reason that Kerby and Carpenter were both unsuitable for the competition, why was no one appointed to fill the remaining spot? At least four riders should have been entered after all.

    The modern Under 23 Men category ended the old ‘pro/amateur’ distinction. Its general intention is to be a platform that draws attention and opportunity to developing riders.

    The Australian Under 23 High Performance Unit claims to be constituted for a similar purpose: the active development of Australia’s talent.

    One might ask then, what good it does to the development of our young cyclists, to deny them an opportunity to experience the highest level of the sport’s competition? What good does it do to deny riders the opportunity to display their talent to the higher powers of cycling, or to hone their abilities in the top echelon of competition?

    Last year at the worlds, Aussie Damien Howson won. In fourth was none other than Campbell Flakemore, who no doubt gained invaluable experience that lead in part to his win this year.

    The year before that in 2012 was the same story when Howson himself was third and behind an Aussie teammate no less, in Rohan Dennis.

    Going back another year, both the Australians selected were on the podium too. Luke Durbridge won and Michael Hepburn took third despite a crash en-route. It goes on.

    It seems unlikely that after taking out five of the nine medals offered in the last three years we suddenly were unable to field more than one rider who would not embarrass themselves or the nation. Given the history, it is less far fetched to assume the idea was to go easy on our competitor nations.

    These blatantly questionable selections leave me wondering whether we are looking at good old-fashioned, wrongheaded, incompetence or if there is something even more ugly at play behind the scenes.

    In any case, it appears the biggest thing holding Australian U23 men back from the podium at the world time trial championships is the selection panel.

    Tom Palmer is a former professional road cyclist riding for Drapac Professional Cycling from 2007 to 2014 before hanging up the cleats to pursue a tertiary education and non-sporting career.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • September 25th 2014 @ 9:12am
      Jeff said | September 25th 2014 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      I noted last night we only had one rider in the mens as well. Is Luke Durbridge sick or injured? I cannot see another reason for him not to be there. Dennis had the best form but we could easily have had another rider. Australia breeds time trialists.

      • September 26th 2014 @ 2:54am
        Wombat said | September 26th 2014 @ 2:54am | ! Report

        Durbridge has basically “ran out of gas” after the Giro then going full distance at the Tour. He was caught by Dowsett at Comm Games and finished well off the podium. This is Hepburn’s first full year on the road after 2012 & 2013 were split by track commitments. He, too, was off the pace at Comm Games which suggests his best form for 2014 is behind him. Maybe THIS hints as to why no1 & no2 at National TT didn’t ride at Worlds. The timing of AUS Nats is unrealistic with regards to making it a selection criteria for Worlds given the near full major season time gap and the vagaries of form that are likely to intrude over that period.

        Rogers made himself unavailable for Worlds selection as did Porte. Rogers’ best TT days are, by his own admission, behind him and Porte is probably not elite class as a TTer in any case. The other AUS TTer of any pedigree, Meyer, was ill at the Vuelta which ruled him out.

        • September 26th 2014 @ 10:46pm
          DerailleurEd said | September 26th 2014 @ 10:46pm | ! Report

          Doesn’t mean that we dont have any lesser riders with TT ability that would not relish a start. Howson’s had a fairly light first year. It wouldn’t have to be a WT guy either, sure someone from likes of Drapac wouldn’t have minded (Will Clarke)…

          • September 27th 2014 @ 1:59am
            Wombat said | September 27th 2014 @ 1:59am | ! Report

            Disagree with you on both counts. Howson was riding quite well early season but has tapered off considerably. He, Durbridge & Hepburn probably had one big effort left in them for the year ….. and it was more sensible they ride the TTT rather than enter in the TT just to make up the numbers.

            Outside WT ?? A few years ago there was a reasonable number of AUS riders on the US circuit including some good TTers but they’ve either retired or moved on. Drapac ?? Sorry …. no takers. Apart from TdU & Langkawi, what other high profile race starts have they had ?

            The choice re U/23 IS puzzling but I can go with the decision re the Elite race. IF there WAS a top-level TTer, other than Dennis, with clearly good recent form then I think they’d have been called up. Sadly, I’m not seeing any others. They’ve given TT rides in the previous 2 Worlds to “worn out” riders (2012 – Durb/Meyer, 2013 – Porte) and the results have told the story.

    • September 25th 2014 @ 9:55am
      Aljay said | September 25th 2014 @ 9:55am | ! Report

      Who does Harry Carpenter ride for? Is it a sleight against u23s with trade teams rather than the national program, or those not with OGE?

    • Roar Rookie

      September 25th 2014 @ 1:50pm
      Andrew Graham said | September 25th 2014 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

      Puzzling. McGee is normally a straight shooter so seems very odd…

      • September 25th 2014 @ 7:48pm
        Matt said | September 25th 2014 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

        Seems an odd policy of the selectors not to develop U23’s in the ITT, especially given Australia’s pedigree in the event. Kirby you said came 9th at Chrono Champenois, it does make you question what you have to do for selection. Looking at the Worlds result and assuming the gap to Flakemore at Chrono was maintained, Kerby gets a top 10 at Worlds as well. Carpenter would have gained valuable experience for next year as well. The question is valid.

        • September 26th 2014 @ 3:44am
          Interested Observer. said | September 26th 2014 @ 3:44am | ! Report

          Their is something bad in CA and the AIS Coaches too self interested. JK should have been there.

    • September 25th 2014 @ 7:35pm
      Alfred Tubbington said | September 25th 2014 @ 7:35pm | ! Report

      Here here Tom Palmer. What do the National Championships mean in Australian Cycling? Too often the winners aren’t representing Australia at the World’ Champs. Could there be a more transparent selection policy or process?

    • September 25th 2014 @ 9:55pm
      Aljay said | September 25th 2014 @ 9:55pm | ! Report

      So has anyone actually put the question to Cycling Australia?

    • September 26th 2014 @ 3:38am
      Interested Observer. said | September 26th 2014 @ 3:38am | ! Report

      Why do we let CA waste good tax payers money. It’s a tragedy that JC was not allowed to ride. The U23 program tapers off way too quickly they should take as many a possible, clearly there is something going on here. Who’s holding CA, and the AIS and the coached accountable. Spending good $ on themselves. They probably think it’s a victory to get the Gold, the real story of results will never be know as the 2 riders that missed out will never get their day to prove it otherwise.

      Shame CA, Same AIS and Shame Coaches.

      Develop lots of riders not just the “chosen” few, that’s what feeder squads are all about.

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