Australia has a wealth of talent coming through the junior ranks, and arguably the best of them is the 20 year old, Perth-born Robert Power. He has achieved a great deal for a man of his age, taking victories in both week-long tours and hilly one-day races, displaying both the explosive power and the consistency that mark him as a contender for the classics and the Grand Tours in the future. Unfortunately, a diagnosis of Bone Marrow Oedema Syndrome has delayed his entry to the WorldTour, with the rare condition causing pain whenever Power climbs or attempts hard efforts on the bike.
“The frustrating thing for him as a young athlete is that he can walk, run and jump with no pain at all, and is perfectly normal to clinical examination," Orica-GreenEDGE's dead physician Dr. Peter Barnes explained. "While it’s extremely uncommon, the condition is well described in the medical literature and unfortunately there is no ‘cure’. What we do know, however, is that it will heal itself in time. The big question is when, and the literature says it could be anywhere between four and 24 months.”
Orica-GreenEDGE has said that they are prepared to wait for Power as he takes some time off the bike to recover, and that he will come straight into the team when he is able to do so. This is far from selfless from the organisation, as Power has shown himself to be an immense talent, but it must be nice for Power to know that he has that support and a guaranteed spot to keep him motivated for as long as his recovery takes.
Power has been racing in Europe as a part of the Under-23 Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy team for two years, after being identified early as a top talent. As a 19 year old he was second in the 2014 Tour de L’Avenir, the biggest race of the Under-23 season, where he was two to three years younger than most of the riders he was competing against. He supplemented that podium finish with a hattrick of victories in one-day races, and on the back of those performances, it was an easy decision for Orica-GreenEDGE to lock him down for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
This was maybe just as well, with Power’s second half of the season wiped out with his uncommon condition, when he was unable to add to his formidable palmares. Nonetheless, Power excelled earlier in the year on the very challenging Giro Valle d’Aosta course, where he took the overall victory. James Victor, the Mens Under-23 road cycling coach and Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy Team Director Sportif, talked with Cycling Central about Power’s performance at the race.
“Robert finished his season early in late July with a frustrating injury but in mid-July showed his real ‘tour contender’ class at the Giro Valle d’Aosta. It’s clearly the hardest stage race I have taken the team to in my six years (as academy coach). Our whole team had come off a very solid mid-season training block straight into d’Aosta with Robert and Jack (Haig) our standout climbing contenders.
"From the uphill 5km prologue that Robert dominated to the final stage finish atop the Colle del Gran San Bernardo, the entire team was incredible in defence with 21 other teams trying everything. Robert kept delivering every day as a developing 20 year old, with some incredible climbing strength and hair-raising descending skills.”
Power’s delay in joining the team will be a bit of a blow for the transition that the squad had planned to morph into becoming more climbing and Grand Tour focused. They will now be missing one of their young powerhouses who was going to be an important figure in supporting the likes of Chaves and the Yates twins in the high mountains.
“I think OGE understand where Robert’s limitations are currently and have designed a well laid out plan to give him every opportunity to develop into one of Australia’s notable climbers of the future,” said Victor. That plan will no doubt have changed radically, but there is no doubt that the commitment is still there from both sides and there’s no reason that Power can’t continue on the road to becoming a top-tier professional, just a little bit later than he would have liked.