• Cameron Scott of the Australian Cycling Academy will always have a national championship jersey to cherish after winning the U23 criterium. (Con Chronis)Source: Con Chronis
Cameron Scott was a surprising omission from the track team that will head towards the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, with the 22-year-old left out of the strong team pursuit squad. Now he’s focusing on road racing, with an eye on reaching the WorldTour sooner rather than later. Jamie Finch-Penninger talks to Cameron Scott and those close to his development about that goal.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

29 Nov 2020 - 10:53 AM 

I was standing in the Adelaide SuperDrome in February, watching the track team prepare for the world championships in the lead-up to the then-2020 Tokyo Olympics, collecting a series of interviews with riders and staff that have unfortunately fallen by the wayside with the postponement of the Games. There were a lot of bold pronouncements during those interviews, ‘we’re going there to win and that's probably going to mean setting world records’, ‘we’re aiming for X medals’, and the like.

Perhaps the biggest prediction was voiced the most quietly spoken of those that I talked to that day, Australian track endurance coach Tim Decker. I was talking about how impressed I’d been with Cam Scott in the past (he’d had a bit more quiet start to 2020) and his potential on the road in the future, seeing if Tim would provide some information on a rider that I’ve been following keenly for years.

“He could be one of the best sprinters in the world one day,” stated Decker simply.

Decker is a passionate supporter of his athletes, but he’s not one to blow smoke, and he wouldn’t put pressure on an athlete to perform above their attainable level. I put the question to Scott what those comments meant to him.

“He’s helped me a lot the last four years and put a lot of belief in me,” said Scott. “It’s good to have someone like him backing me. I do have that belief, but hearing that from him means a lot.

“I talk to him quite regularly and train with the guys (track endurance squad) in Adelaide a bit, it’s nice to not just to be gone from that group.”

When Scott was left out of the Australian selection for scholarships (ie. an income to live off while training), he reached out to ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast, a team he’s ridden with in the past in his road race excursions in the past. Now back in the team, with head of performance Stuart Shaw also his personal coach, it’s about focusing on road racing after an odd 2020.

“I’ve been riding really well in the past few months, just enjoying myself not really thinking of it as training, just riding my bike,” said Scott. “I’ve been doing a bit on the mountain bike just enjoying myself. I don’t think it’s been a bad thing either as I’m still riding pretty well at the moment.

“I’ve actually quite enjoyed this year, working more on the things that need to be improved… but I’m still really looking forward to racing being back.”

The world of mountain-bike racing far away from the pristine world of the boards of the track, but the road is probably more of a happy medium between the two.

The move from a track focus to the road is a natural progression for many track endurance athletes after taking a run at the Olympics, moving to the road with bigger salaries, less boom-or-bust variance of an Olympic focus and varied racing. For Scott, it came before the ideal moment, coming off a gold medal in Tokyo, but a shift from the track to the road was always in the future for the Wagga local.

“It was a bit of both, kind of forced and took it upon myself,” said Scott. “Once my Cycling Australia scholarship wasn’t renewed I didn’t see in it for me on the track anymore. I didn’t see the point to keep doing it.

“I’ve always wanted to have a proper dig on the road. I have been doing road for years now, but it’s always been with a track focus, it will be good to change things up a bit now and take things a bit more seriously.”

Scott’s results have been intermittent, a product of his track program focus, but when given the opportunity to unleash his ferocious sprint, there aren’t many who are faster. His best results come at the end of hard races, notably he won a stage of the 2018 Tour of Qinghai Lake, the closest thing to a Grand Tour outside the World Tour peloton.

“It’s something I look forward to, the tougher races,” said Scott. “There are a lot of people who can sprint really well, but I feel that I can get through the race better than most and like to make a race harder. I guess I just like racing really, the hard ones especially.

“I’ve had a few good results. 2018 was a good year for me, but I haven’t raced much at all this year apart from the Tour Down Under. In 2019, we did a solid block in Europe, a lot of one-day races with pro teams, that was a big step.”

That block gave Scott and the other riders in the squad the chance not just to race in Europe, but get a feel for the professional road cycling scene with an eye to joining it in the future. The racing block included stays in Belgium and Girona, two of the hubs for Australian cyclists living in Europe. That knowledge has given Scott ideas of how he’ll avoid the neo-pro blues that can affect first-year Australian riders moving to Europe.

“I think if I was to go overseas I’d want to do my own thing a bit more,” said Scott. “Spend some time setting things up for myself, rather than having things done for me to make it how I’d want it to be.”

That’s reflective of Scott’s personality, reserved, thoughtful and very happy to do his own thing, perhaps why he has enjoyed 2020 more than most. His coach and team director, Stuart Shaw, spoke of the dynamic that Scott brings to a squad.

“Cam’s a quiet guy but he’s well thought-out, has a high cycling IQ and when he does talks it adds a lot of value. He’s really good in a team environment, I think a lot of that has to with Tim Decker, it’s something that you see a lot coming out of his groups.”

Scott spoke generally of adding some endurance ability to his physiology and changing body shape from being a pure track athlete, but it’s clear that he’s got less distance to travel than, for instance, a rider like fellow team pursuiter Sam Welsford, who looks more like a track sprinter than a road rider.

“Cam and I have been talking since the last camp about where he wants to go and what he wants to do,” said Shaw. “He’s such a versatile rider that he could go in a lot of different ways. At the moment, we’re building a little endurance but also trying to enjoy this time.

“He’s a pretty complete rider, he doesn’t need to add too much, we just need races really. We’ll help him out and hopefully get him soon to the spot he deserves which is in the WorldTour.”

“If I could have him move into the WorldTour tomorrow I’d do that, but if we’re lucky to have him for next year then there will definitely be a lot of races that we can target with him.”

That move to the WorldTour is far from a pre-ordained certainty, there’s certainly boxes that Scott will need to tick and more importantly, races he’ll need to win.

“We’re trying to get attention for teams but it’s hard to sell myself without recent results,” said Scott. “It’s just about the next race and working hard to go well there.”

“The number of contacts between them (ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast staff) will definitely help moving forwards. I’ve got all the support I’ve needed so far and there hasn’t been anything missing. I couldn’t want anything more at the moment.”

Scott will face his first stern test at national level racing since-joining ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast, taking on a very talented sprint field at the National Road Series in the Tweed Valley today. A duel between him and Jensen Plowright (Team Bridgelane) will be a much-anticipated battle and the highlight of the day’s racing.

He’s not the most flashy, he won’t give you the outlandish prediction or statement, but Cameron Scott has mightily impressed those that he’s worked closely with and close observers of the sport see his place as being in the WorldTour.

You can watch the highlights of the National Road Series on SBS Cycling Central daily, here's the highlights from Day 1 of competition.