Despite having a trio of Aussies on their 28-man roster in 2017, that Miles Scotson was the only representative from BMC Racing in Buninyong tells you something.
Sticking a 22-year-old neo-pro on his Pat Malone into the mostly hotly contested one-day race for Australian riders, it tells you BMC Racing didn't think their chances of winning the national road championship were that good. If they thought they could win, then without doubt, they would have put Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte into the 183.6 kilometre event Sunday. Scotson and Dennis would've likely worked for Porte, who finished third in 2014 (behind Simon Gerrans and Cadel Evans), when he was riding for Team Sky.
"When you think about it, it makes sense because Porte has never been a one-day rider."
That year, a fortnight later, the pugnacious Tasmanian went on to finish fourth overall at the Tour Down Under (which Gerrans won). One year after that, he won the national time trial championship though didn't quite have it in the road race, placing 22nd behind winner Heinrich Haussler. But he did better at Down Under, finishing second overall, just two seconds behind Dennis, who, one year later, would become his team-mate at BMC Racing, following four seasons with Team Sky.
At the 2016 nationals Dennis turned the tables in the time trial to get the better of Porte but neither finished the road race. Still, Porte, now 31, enjoyed another excellent Down Under where he scored a hat-trick atop Willunga Hill and finished second overall again, this time to Gerrans. It seemed that for him at least, in order to try and win in South Australia, it was better to skip the nationals altogether.
When you think about it, it makes sense because Porte has never been a one-day rider. Look up his name and palmarès on ProCyclingStats and it will tell you so: since turning professional with Saxo Bank in 2010, he's ridden only five Monuments in seven years (Liège-Bastogne-Liège three times, Il Lombardia twice) - and DNFd four times. Last year he finished Liège but ended an anonymous 91st.
Dennis is the same, though to date, his standout performances are weighted more towards time trials than GC (which, over the coming seasons, he is intent to change, as he recently told Cycling Central). Logical, then, to skip the national road race, too (the time trial he won again at a canter this year, beating Luke Durbridge by almost a minute).
Two weeks might not seem like much but it just doesn't make sense for Dennis or Porte to be flying in the first week of January. Scotson, well, he's new to this game; these early years will be about learning the ropes, experimentation, and seeing what he's good at. Besides, he doesn't have to do that race for three weeks in July.
It's hard to miss a shot at your national championship and wearing the green and gold jersey all season long, but if history is anything to go by it's the best option for Porte to break his spell of seconds and finally win the Tour Down Under. Though judging by the line-up, he's picked one of the hardest years to do it.