• Lucas Hamilton (L) on the under 23 national championships podium with winner Chris Hamilton (C) and Callum Scotson (Kathryn Watt)Source: Kathryn Watt
The UniSA team always has different ambitions going into each edition of the Tour Down Under, with almost an entirely different squad of riders taking it up to World Tour opposition and Lucas Hamilton is one of those riders.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
23 Jan 2016 - 2:49 PM  UPDATED 23 Jan 2016 - 2:54 PM

Dave Sanders, team director, spoke to Cycling Central about what the goals were for the team during the Tour.

“The aims are always to take opportunities," Sanders said. "It depends on how the stage is set up, whether you can sneak away and get KOM points, and there’s always a chance with the breakaway. You just have to put your cards down and see where they land.”

With the lack of name recognition of many of the riders on the roster for the WorldTour peleton, Sanders knows that the riders aren’t going to get the respect that they deserve.

“There’s always a lack of respect, we know that from when we turn the first pedal, I always say, ‘They’re not going to respect you at the start of the week, but you’re generally respected by the end of the week, because we’ve proved that we deserve to be here," he said.

"It doesn’t faze us, it doesn’t faze me, I tell the guys that we need to earn respect. Predominantly my role is to show that it is feasible, that the riders are not intimidated by this level. After a couple of races they realise they we’ve got better form than most of these guys."

Sean Lake delivered in spades with his opening day breakaway, which netted him the mountains jersey, and saw him the last man caught from the break, but Sanders believed that the climbing youngsters on the squad had the best chance of making a significant impact on the race.

“We have a few young guys (Chris Hamilton and Lucas Hamilton- no relation) that I think could really deliver high positions on the hill climbs. The quality of riders we have, Lucas was third up the big climb (Corkscrew) today, right on Richie Porte’s wheel, and they were really going up there.”

Nonetheless, Sander’s enthusiasm is tempered with pragmatism, and he recognises the challenge the first two placegetters at the under 23 nationals road race will face.

“For Lucas this is a first and Chris has come out of mountain bikes, I mean they’re 19 and 20 years old. Willunga will suit them better than the Corkscrew. It's a straighter climb, there aren’t the messy descents, sharp corners and narrow roads so I think that they will aquit themselves very well.

"I’m really excited, I think they will really deliver. In reality, I don’t talk fairytales, they’re not at a level to win the stage, but I would think they would be in a position to take the top 10 and I think they’re both capable of it.”

Cycling Central also spoke to Lucas Hamilton on the eve of the biggest race of his life. The youngster has made a significant impact on the National Road Series in his short career, leaving most in his wake when the road tilts uphill, but he realises that the WorldTour is a completely different level and style to what he’s become accustomed to.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to race against the best in the world, it’s a good experience and I think you come out with a lot better idea of where you sit and what it’s like at the top level," he said.

"It’s a different style, it’s more of a tempo style of racing, with the last part being full gas, rather than NRS or under 23 racing being flat out, because you don’t have those big teams to ride the front. The last part of the race is next level.”

Hamilton hasn’t looked out of place in the peloton despite being far the youngest rider in the race, rubbing shoulders with Porte (BMC), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Sergio Henao (Sky) as they crested the major climb of Stage 4.

“It was a pretty high tempo up the climb, I did a pretty big effort at the start, and once I was up there, they let me in, so it was a pretty big confidence boost for tomorrow. I don’t think it was full gas, but it probably wasn’t far from it.

I’ll try and put myself in the best position and just try to hang on for a good result. Willunga suits me better than the Corkscrew because of the run in, obviously people are going to be pushing into me, but not at 80 kilometres per hour.”

Perhaps most important is the support that the young Lucas Hamilton will have from the team car in form of mentor Sanders, who has been the main man for the young Ararat prodigy over the past few years.

“Davo’s been great, and he’s obviously a big part of the reason of why I’m here, along with VIS (Victorian Institute of Sport).

"I think to be able to race with him here, I know him well and to communicate with him it’s a lot easier. I have a lot to thank him for.”