• Matthew Keenan tells us about the five performances that impressed him over the 2019-20 summer of Australian cycling (Getty Images/Con Chronis)Source: Getty Images/Con Chronis
There was a lot to like about the Australian grand tour… ah, summer of cycling, writes Matthew Keenan
Matthew Keenan

14 Feb 2020 - 2:46 PM  UPDATED 14 Feb 2020 - 5:43 PM

From the start of 2020 with the Bay Crits right through to last weekend at the Herald Sun Tour, we packed quite a bit in.

Here are my top five take outs from the summer.

1. Emotional Meyer

The raw emotion of Cameron Meyer’s post national championships interview was beautiful.

To see Cameron, a nine-time track world champion, on the brink of tears winning the Australian road title showed how important it is to get that green and gold jersey and how much he’d poured into winning that title.

He had some competition though, on Falls Creek at the Lexus of Blackburn Herald Sun Tour, from Ella Harris. The Kiwi was dropped seven times on the 30km climb but somehow took her first professional win. It was a fairytale result that ended in a bottom lip quivering interview. It was magic.

So for all the talk of getting more on board data from riders - watts, heart rate, etc - what really draws people in is the emotion of it all.

Only a small part of the audience can relate to watts per kilo. But even if you’ve never ridden a bike, you can relate to the heart and soul shown by these two. I loved it.

2. Caleb’s confidence

From what I saw Caleb Ewan has gone to the next level, physically and psychologically.

Rolling around at the back of the peloton during the Scwhalbe Classic in Adelaide, telling team mate Roger Kluge “relax, I’ll get to the front when I’m ready”, made it look like he was riding a club race. But it was a WorldTour peloton.

He won comfortably. He then took out two stages of the Tour Down Under, the stage win to Stirling was exceptional.

His confidence in his standing in the sport also shone through in an interview on the Stanley Street Social podcast.

In the first 15 minutes he spoke strongly about unashamedly going full gas to become a professional cyclist. Cycling and life balance? He was all-in for making it at the highest level.

He then closed out the interview with some firm, but balanced, views on Mitchelton-Scott and their development of Australian riders.

It takes confidence to voice your opinion rather than taking the safe option.

3. Rising stars - Gigante, Gunning, Roseman-Gannon, Berwick

RoadNats Time Trial Highlights

Since winning the women's road race at the national road championships last year the expectations of Sarah Gigante have been high. No problem. This year she won the individual time trial. She’s still only 19. Born after the Sydney Olympics. I think she should be in calculation for Tokyo.

But she’s got some quality company.

Gunning for the stars: the NRS rider matching it with the world's best
NRS rider Jaime Gunning worked her way into a battle for the women's 2020 Herald Sun Tour title yesterday, matching it with the world's best but surprised noone watching her progress over the past two seasons.

Jamie Gunning snared the Under 23 road title in Buninyong but it was her second place finish in the Lexus of Blackburn Herald Sun Tour that really stood out. Her whole Specialized Women’s Racing team had an impressive summer.

Ruby Roseman-Gannon, riding for ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast, was to many a revelation of the summer. To others a confirmation of a steadily developing talent.

Second in the Lexus of Blackburn Bay Crits to Chloe Hosking, second in the national criterium championships, again to Hosking who is one of the fastest sprinters in the world, then third on Stage 1 of the Herald Sun Tour. And she was with Emily Herfoss and Jessica Pratt, both quality climbers, on the Falls Creek stage.

She’s world class on the road and on the track. Watch this space.

All-out assault on Herald Sun Tour, next stop the world for Berwick
An all-out assault in the final kilometre of the Mt Buller climb saw Sebastian Berwick drop everyone except Herald Sun Tour leader and eventual Stage 4 winner Jai Hindley. While his story was quite a different one only 12 months ago, the sky is surely now the limit for the 20-year-old.

Sebastian Berwick was the best of the young men. Five years ago, at the Mt Coot-ha Burn, Robbie McEwen said, “Keeno, watch this kid climb”.

He’s now 20 and at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour he blasted past Vuelta a Espana winner, Simon Yates, on Mt Buller, on his way to finishing second overall.

He was also second in the U23 road race at the National Championships. A post race chat with David McKenzie went along the lines of:

Macca: congratulations, that was a great ride.
Seb: I didn’t come here to finish second.

I love that attitude.

There were plenty more worthy of a mention (Rudy Porter, Carter Turnbull, I’m looking at you) but these were the standouts.

4. Richie Porte’s still a force

It was great to see Richie Porte take his second overall victory at the Santos Tour Down Under. During the race he was fully focused, limiting his non-racing commitments, and thriving under the pressure of team captain and pre-race favourite.

His palmares is among the elite in the history of Australian cycling. A Tour de France stage win, and with a healthy body for the season, a podium finish in Paris would be well deserved.

5. Jai Hindley’s Sun Tour stepping stone

Herald Sun Tour victory confirms Hindley's leadership mettle
After a steady rise through the ranks, overall victory at this year's Herald Sun Tour proves Jai Hindley is now ready to lead big races for Team Sunweb.

The Jayco Herald Sun Tour plays second fiddle to the Tour Down Under in status and public attention. But it has been a long-time proving ground for young riders showing a team they’re worthy of leadership status.

Simon Gerrans, in 2005, is the most obvious example. Baden Cooke won in 2002, then the green jersey at the Tour de France in 2003.

Bradley Wiggins won in 2009, which was an important victory for him with his links to Australia as his father was from Gippsland.

For Nathan Haas, 2011, it was the launching pad into the WorldTour.

This year Jai Hindley set his sights on the Sun Tour. As the team leader, he delivered. He won on Falls Creek, ahead of Damian Howson (Mitchelton-Scott) and on Mt Buller, on his way to winning overall.

His grand tour debut was the 2018 Vuelta a Espana, where he finished 32nd. Last year he was 35th at the Giro d’Italia.

He is definitely a top-10 grand tour contender if, and I think when, he reaches his full potential.

His development is consistent, he’s shown he can deal with pressure and he’s still just 23 years old. Another appearance at the Giro d’Italia is on the schedule in 2020.

Special mentions

Cofidis still has some work to do on team cohesion but the addition of Elia Viviani is a big win and this is the best they’ve looked for more than a decade.

And something is really working in Western Australia. Cam Meyer (road), Luke Durbridge (time trial) and Sam Welsford (criterium) swept the elite men’s national championships. Plus the Sunweb team, that won the Herald Sun Tour, included WA’s Jai Hindley, Michael Storer and Rob Power.

Next stop for me is Paris-Nice. A mix of Tour contenders and classics riders putting on the finishing touches.

I can’t wait.