If there’s a race that has a name to suit the lofty career projections of Kaden Groves, it’s the Tour de l'Avenir, which translates as the race of the future. Lining up for the Australia squad under the direction of Brad McGee in Southern France, but how did he get there?
“I used to really be into motocross until I had an injury where I tore my Achilles tendon and cycling was a big part of the rehab,” Groves said.
“It helped quite a lot with the bike handling early on, but that’s about it. I’m super competitive and I think you need to be to get results and that certainly does transfer over.
"When I was younger I was pretty competitive and I haven’t lost that. I always love to compete and win.”
The 20-year-old hasn’t entirely consigned the motocross bike to the dusty end of the garage, but cycling takes precedence these days.
“I do a little bit (of motocross riding) in the off-season,” he said, “but I don’t want to do that (injure myself) again.”
His talent was evident from a young age with strong performances in local Queensland races, but it was with Australian Continental squad St George that he was given a platform to showcase his abilities in 2017.
“I was super lucky to ride for St George,” Groves said. “Under Brett Dutton (team manager) and all those mature guys on the team like Morgz (Morgan) Smith, Tom Hubbard and Jay Dutton… that’s just a few names, but they all put confidence in me to ride for me from a young age two seasons ago in Asia.
“I learnt to sprint and there’s no better experience than going for the win and they gave me that opportunity. It was a really great environment for a young guy coming through.”
Whispers were starting to emerge of the talented youngster from the Sunshine Coast who could sprint with the best and was only dropped by the elite climbers in some of the harder races on the Asian Tour.
A win in the Tour of Fuzhou in 2017 caught the eye of Dave Sanders, coach and Mitchelton-BikeExchange director who has been involved in the careers of many of the current and past generations of Australian World Tour talent.
That win sparked the start of Mitchelton-Scott’s relationship with Groves, which would involve a transfer to the Mitchelton-BikeExchange development team in mid-2018.
“It’s mainly been since the start of 2018,” Groves said of his contact with Mitchelton-Scott. “A lot of it came through Dave Sanders, he was the director when I raced against Mitchelton-BikeExchange in the Tour of Fuzhou.”
From his base with St George, the move to Mitchelton’s feeder squad was followed by a switch to SEG Racing, the organisation that also operates as Groves’ agency for contract and rider related matters.
“I’ve experienced quite a lot since my time at St George with those two teams,” he said. “SEG’s calendar, in my opinion, is the best for an under 23 rider in Europe. Last year we had a discussion with Mitchelton-BikeExchange to move onto another team to get more exposure, because of the Asian calendar that they were riding this year.”
“With SEG I’ve experienced all the different styles of racing. The longer one-day races in Belgium or the shorter Tours in France and Italy. It’s being about trying to become a specialist, picking days that suit you and trying to go for the win.”
With the Sunshine Coast local developing his talents in some premium events in Asia and Europe, it begs the question of what type of rider he sees himself being in the future.
“I’m still not sure,” Groves said. "The level in the World Tour is going to be a big step, and you don’t really know how that’s going to go. All my results have been in bunch sprints and I see myself becoming a fast rider. I don’t really know yet, hopefully, I continue to develop and work it out.
“They’re (Mitchelton-Scott) super involved in my development as a rider and there’s no pressure or stress there to be anyone in particular. That’s encouraging, knowing I’ll have time to see where I fit in at the WorldTour against professionals. That said, hopefully, I can take up the role of being a sprinter.”
Understandably, that jump to the WorldTour is one that Groves has been thinking a lot about recently.
“It seems a lot more controlled, especially in the big tours,” he said. “I’d love to see myself in the classics or the flatter one-day races or Tours. Nothing really in particular, but Mitchelton are great with the development of riders, you see Robert Stannard and Callum Scotson riding some of the biggest one-day races and that’s something I’d love to experience.
“Winning a race like Flanders or Paris-Roubaix, or doing something like Caleb Ewan’s done at this year’s Tour - I’d love to follow in his footsteps."
2019 has been the year of the next generation with riders like Remco Evenepoel, Tadej Pogacar and Tour de France winner Egan Bernal showing that young riders aren’t just here to make up the numbers and develop for the future but win some of the biggest races in cycling. Groves played down those sort of expectations in regards to his career, hoping for a more modest start in 2020.
“If you’re a super talent like Remco, Pogacar or Bernal they make it look easy,” Groves said. “I don’t think that all young riders can immediately win.
“If you’ve got the support and the will to do it then it’s possible, but I’m not going to go in and expect to be winning straight away. I hope to get some nice results and build upon my confidence in the World Tour."
Groves is concentrating on a strong finish to 2019, currently at the Tour de L’Avenir and with a strong focus on the hilly under 23 world championships road race in Yorkshire.
“We’re here at L’Avenir, so hopefully I can build some form and maybe snag a result,” he said. “Then it’s all about building for Worlds. If I’m in the right shape I believe I can survive that course. I’m happy with how hilly it is, I think we can offload some of the faster sprinters before the finish.”
A result at the world championships would be a confirmation of his talent and will give him a confidence boost ahead of the step up to the World Tour. However, it seems more likely that his foundation built over the past few seasons has set the Queenslander up well for a long career in the sport.