• Chris Hamilton celebrates his Under-23 road title with his dad (Kathryn Watt)Source: Kathryn Watt
As the reality of his new under-23 Australian road title sinks in, Bendigo’s Chris Hamilton weighs up an all-too-familiar decision faced by Australia’s most promising young mountain bikers: follow the dirt, switch to the road, or continue to juggle the best of both.
Cycling Central

Mountain Bike Australia
12 Jan 2016 - 11:40 AM 

“I’ve been chasing the dream on the mountain bike since I got into it and then I was kind of a bit unsure coming into the year as to what I wanted to focus on,” said the 20-year old who races for the Torq team on the mountain bike and Avanti IsoWhey Sports on the road.

“To come out and win the road race definitely makes me want to do more,” said the newly crowned under-23 road race champion. “I probably will have to change my twitter handle now,” he added, @chris_hamoMTB suddenly feeling a little narrow given the goals that lie ahead.

@shimanoaustralia: What a smile from @chris_hamomtb @avantiisowheysports winning the U23 Road Race yesterday! Photo @cyclingaustralia #rideshimano #roadnats #ballarat #doublethreat 

Chris Hamilton wins national under 23 road title
Chris Hamilton (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) won the Mars Cycling Australia under 23 national championship in a tight sprint finish.

Hamilton has represented Australia at the junior world championships in cross-country and, among other dreams, was chasing a spot at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the same discipline.

Now with a national road jersey to his name, one he can frame alongside his under-23 criterium title from 2015, the 20-year- old’s immediate future will be tied up with Avanti IsoWhey. Next stop is the Santos Tour Down Under where he’ll join several of his Avanti IsoWhey team-mates riding for for UniversitySA-Australia squad.

@chris_hamomtb: Just when I thought things couldn't get any better, the team for the Uni SA squad for the Tour Down Under has been announced and ive got a start!! Not only that but i get to do it alongside 5 of my team mates @shawry_07 @patlane1 @neilvdp and @seanlake72.  The excitement is hard to contain! Photo @kirstybaxter79 

Team UniSA–Australia names TDU squad
Last year’s Team UniSA squad had a big impact on the Tour Down Under, winning the first stage with 2016 national road race champion Jack Bobridge and defending the Ochre jersey in the second stage.

“From there I have to make the call on what to do for the rest of the year, whether I’m ready to make the step and head over to Europe or have another season in Australia with the NRS,” he said.

But with his roots in the mountain bike world, Hamilton isn’t ready to give the sport up entirely, with four rounds of the 2015-16 Subaru National Series round to go.

“Thredbo. I’ll have to look at my calendar to see if I will be able to fit that in 'cause Thredbo is probably one of my favourite places to go on the mountain bike.

“As far as National Champs go I can’t confirm just yet whether I’ll be able to do that,” said Hamilton.

His strong affection for the sport doesn’t just come from simply riding, it’s also the people.

“People are just so welcoming and friendly. For kids just starting mountain biking is the best as you learn how to enjoy bike riding first,” he said.

As for the next wave of elite cross-country riders Hamilton has every confidence there is plenty of talent out on the dirt.

“I’ve been racing Scott Bowden (4SHAW Dyad) a while now and he’s making the right step towards being on a world class level. [He had] such a strong year last year and hopefully has another good one in 2016. Cam Ivory (Specialized Racing Australia) will also be up there.”

The transition from the dirt to the road is an all too common one for Australia’s young mountain bikers. While many express a passion to keep competing on the mountain bike, the reality is that there are far more opportunities to earn an income from cycling on the road.

If Hamilton makes the switch it’ll be a loss to the Australian cross-country community but he’ll be in some good company with riders such as Jack Haig (Orica-GreenEDGE), Nathan Haas (Dimension Data), Lachlan Norris (Drapac Cycling), Steele Von Hoff (One Pro Cycling) and Neil van der Ploeg (Avanti IsoWhey) taking a similar pathway in recent years; one that has lead to impressive results.

Two-time women’s road champion, Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS), also transitioned to the road after an impressive results as an U23 cross-country rider.

2015 Australian women’s road champion, Peta Mullens (Wiggle-High 5 and Yeti-SRAM racing), is one of Hamilton’s training and travelling partners. Mullen’s still splits her time between both disciplines and was as excited as 'Hurricane' Hamilton with his highest profile win to date.

@kirstybaxter79: Hugs from @petamullens to #U23 #ROADNATS winner @chris_hamomtb @avantiisowheysports - The Irish Blessing pre race seemed to do the trick! @cyclingaustralia @cyclingvictoria 

@Petamullens: That winning feeling.. an emotional moment when @chris_hamomtb aka #hurricanehamilton won the U23 #roadnats today.  So glad I was there to share the moment, it was a long hug sesh #proud #whatamess #roadnatsspam Photo @kirstybaxter79