• Lucas Hamilton signs an autograph for a young fan at the 2018 Jayco Herald Sun Tour (Jean-Pierre Ronco)Source: Jean-Pierre Ronco
Rated among the best climbing talents of this generation, 2018 World Tour debutante Lucas Hamilton caught up with Kieran Pender to discuss his second place at last year’s Baby Giro, a dislike of paperwork and enjoying the pain of a long climb.
Kieran Pender

Cycling Central
20 Feb 2018 - 9:08 AM 

He is barely 22, but Lucas Hamilton displays a quiet maturity beyond his years. Softly-spoken yet eloquent, Hamilton chats happily just minutes before an important stage start.

The young Australian is getting used to the attention. A promising prospect since his teenage years where he stood out with strong performances in Victorian Institute of Sport colours, Hamilton has been on a rapid upward trajectory.

Two years in the Australian development team, initially Jayco–AIS World Tour Academy and later part of GreenEDGE’s continental team (what is now Mitchelton-BikeExchange), propelled him to even greater heights.

Lucas Hamilton continues superb season with Tour of Alsace win
Lucas Hamilton (Michelton-Scott) showed again why he is regarded as one of Australia's brightest talents, winning the mountainous Tour de Alsace on the weekend.

Second at Ireland’s An Post Rás, second at the Giro Ciclistico d'Italia (nicknamed the Baby Giro) and fourth at the prestigious Tour de l'Avenir in the space of two seasons earned Hamilton a professional contract. Not bad for a pursuit that began as weekend fun for his family.

“We were always an active family, and one Saturday we went down to a local cycling club,” Hamilton explains. “It all kicked off from there. We were big footy players, and then my brother got an injury in football so we started taking cycling more seriously.”

One result led to another, and the rider was soon considered a world class junior prospect. But the humble Hamilton never got ahead of himself.

“I don’t think I ever had a point where I realised I had made it,” he says. “I was just taking it day by day, race by race. Last year I showed that I had the climbing ability to keep up with the top-end guys, and when I won a time trial at the Baby Giro – which was big deal for me – it suggested I could compete in the general classification.”

Hamilton finishes 2nd on final stage to cap off top Tour de l'Avenir for young Aussies
The final stage of the Tour de l'Avenir saw Lucas Hamilton shrug off the illness which had hampered him in the early stages of the Tour, returning to form to finish second on the stage just nine seconds behind solo winner Neilson Powless (United States), who had been part of the early breakaway. Jai Hindley and Michael Storer both moved up the General Classification and Hamilton also took the King of the Mountains jersey as well in a superb final stage for the Australian youth squad.

Alongside Hamilton for the past two years was a talented cohort, including Michael Storer and Jai Hindley who are both riding with World Tour rivals Sunweb in 2018. The trio are just the latest in the long line of Australian development team alumni including Michael Matthews, Caleb Ewan, Rohan Dennis and Jack Haig.

“The AIS pathway is a proven recipe for getting to the World Tour,” Hamilton reflects. “It was a great opportunity to get into that team, they looked after us well and developed us into the World Tour riders that we are now.”

Another benefit was the camaraderie among the 2017 team. “We all lived in the same apartment block in Europe, racing week after week and then coming home and being together,” Hamilton says.

“Luckily we were all great mates. No-one didn’t get along. That worked in our favour in races, and then off the bike we had a great time too.”

This team chemistry saw Mitchelton-BikeExchange secure the team classification at l’Avenir and Hamilton finish fourth, a strong result at the “tour of the future” once won by the likes of Greg LeMond, Nairo Quintana and Esteban Chaves. While Hamilton was somewhat disappointed with his individual finish, he still reflects proudly on an important moment during a big campaign.

“[Egan] Bernal was a long way ahead of everyone else – he’s a class act,” Hamilton says of Team Sky’s new signing, who won the l’Avenir yellow jersey. “Then there were three or four of us really close together.

“It would have been nice to be on the podium, but by that point in the season I was just happy to pull off fourth,” he continues. “It was a massive season: we’d started in the Australian summer and had already had some great results as a team.”

After his strong campaign on the junior circuit, several World Tour teams expressed interest in signing Hamilton. But there was never any doubt the Victorian was going to end up at Mitchelton-Scott. “When it actually happened it was hard to sleep at night,” he laughs. “It is surreal to be able to step up into one of the biggest teams in the World Tour.”

Hamilton, who was U23 Australian cyclist of the year in 2017, cites Haig and Rob Power as examples of Mitchelton-Scott’s work developing top young riders. “I am really looking forward to being part of that,” he says.

But Hamilton has not looked forward to the paperwork that comes with being a professional rider. “I have lived in Europe for nine months of the season for the past two years, so I am not too worried about the transition,” he says of his permanent move to Girona, Spain. “But visas and stuff become difficult – with stepping up, those off-bike processes take up a lot more time.”

Another substantive difference facing Hamilton in 2018 is a change to his role on the road. After several years as a leading rider on junior teams, the 22-year-old will now be the youngest member of Mitchelton-Scott’s roster and tasked with riding for colleagues rather than himself.

“It does take a different mentality,” he admits. “You need to get used to being 10 minutes down [on general classification], but riding full-gas for the first half of a stage. It is good – I would not want to do it for anyone else but the amazing guys on this team.”

In the medium term, once Hamilton has done his time working for others, he wants to be a general classification rider. “I would love to be competitive in a Grand Tour eventually – long, long-term,” Hamilton offers cautiously. “I also like the excitement of some of those hilly one-day races, Lombardia, even Liege.”

One day, when Hamilton is climbing the iconic mountains of the Tour de France or Giro d’Italia, keep an eye out for the cheeky smile just visible behind the pain on Hamilton’s face. Asked whether he enjoys those challenging moments in the saddle, Hamilton ends the interview on a philosophical note.

“That depends,” he says. “I wouldn’t say it is fun, but if you are the stronger guy there and you know you are, then that’s fun – putting other people in the hurt. And then when you’re receiving it, it can be pretty tough some times. We wouldn’t do it if we did not enjoy some part of it. I would not say it is fun, but it is not too bad either.”