Best Australian cyclists
Sarah Gigante (Roxsolt-Attaquer in 2019, moving to TIBCO-SVB)
Gigante started the year as an 18-year-old with talent and was actually included in the youngsters to watch last year.
She didn't even have an National Road Series (NRS) victory to her name but an unlikely, jaw-dropping solo win at the 2019 RoadNats announced her name to the world.
Gigante was given opportunities to race around the world with her Roxsolt-Attaquer squad and turned up to the Tour of Tasmania in the best shape of her young career, winning the queen stage and the Tour overall.
A step-up to WorldTour competition next year won’t be easy, but physically Gigante is not far off and it shouldn’t be too long before she mixes it with the best.
Honourable mention to Gigante's teammate Emily Herfoss who was dominant at NRS level this year.
Chris Harper (Team Bridgelane in 2019, moving to Jumbo-Visma)
It was really tough to pick between Harper, Ben Dyball (Team Sapura, off to NTT in 2020) and 2019 NRS champion Jarrad Drizners (Inform TM Insight MAKE, off to Axeon Hagens Berman).
All had superb seasons, but Harper gets the nod by virtue of domination of the Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc, a mountainous stage race won by future champions of the Grand Tours.
He joined the likes of Egan Bernal and Enric Mas, but neither of them approached the South Australian’s colossal winning margin of six minutes on the general classification.
If that’s not enough, add in the Tour of Japan overall win, an eye-catching summer of cycling and wins domestically.
It’s no wonder he’s been swept up by one of the best teams in the world for next season.
Top young talents to watch
Tyler Lindorff (Team Bridgelane)
One of a crop of names popping up through junior ranks in the last couple of years, 19-year-old Lindorff had a measured start to his 2019 season with limited racing on the experienced and talented Bridgelane squad.
His performances in the NRS caught the eye as the best climbing talent among the Aussie youngsters at present.
His returns on the climbing stages of the Tour of Tasmania were first-class, only bested by an explosive specialist Cam Ivory in the prologue and his two WorldTour-bound teammates on the long ascent to Poatina.
The West Australian has a junior men’s national road race title and Under 23 Oceania championships to his name, but no elite wins yet. With a silky smooth pedaling style and oodles of power, he is one to watch.
Again, Drizners gets an honourable mention, but with his ascension to Axeon Hagens Berman, one of the world’s top development teams, the horse has already bolted.
Jaime Gunning (Specialized Women's Racing)
The 21-year-old has been present on the NRS circuit for years, but her performances during the summer of cycling stood out this this season.
Consistent results at RoadNats (8th elite road race, 13th ITT), the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (21st) and the Herald Sun Tour (10th overall) were impressive, but her young rider jersey and sixth overall at the Tour Down Under was the real highlight.
Apart from Herfoss, she’s the next most obvious candidate to be called up to a squad competing in the big European races next season.
Special mention to Jessica Pratt, who battled her way through the Zwift Academy to land a spot with Canyon-SRAM for next year. The diminuitive Queenslander has got a few wins to her name in the NRS, is a super tough fighter within the peloton and one of the few that won’t be overawed stepping up a level.
Moment of the Year
Michael Freiberg’s victory at the RoadNats will go down in history, not just for the underdog nature of the Continental rider versus the WorldTour, but for the dramatic nature of the win itself.
The catch and pass of Harper and Cameron Meyer (Mitchelton-Scott) in the final kilometres will be right near the top of anyone putting together a highlights reel for the Ballarat nationals over the years.
The subsequent controversy over Freiberg’s non-selection for the Tour Down Under UniSA team has been averted next year, at least as a PR drama, with Cycling Australia opting to announce the team ahead of time. Of course, that doesn’t allow Freiberg or his ilk to make the team in the event of another turn up for the books.
Event of the Year
The Herald Sun Tour (men and women) is an under-appreciated event on the Australian cycling calendar, getting a bit lost in the shadow of the better attended, high profile events at the Cadel Evans Road Race and the Tour Down Under.
What the Herald Sun Tour offers is a more intimate view of the racing and in the case of last year’s event the best cycling spectacle.
Team Sky’s coup on the Arthur’s Seat stage will go down as one of the most audacious last-minute moves in the race’s history.
The gravel climbs and wind into the sleepy country town of Churchill were a welcome addition and offered a chance for Lucy Kennedy to take a dramatic win before Richie Porte and Michael Woods went man on man in fierce competition in the men's race.
The race’s contract with Visit Victoria is up after the 2020 edition, it would be a great shame for Australian cycling to see the event have to step down or out.