• (L to R) Jai Hindley, Caleb Ewan, Grace Brown (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
It's been a very good year for Australians racing around the world, with expected stars performing as billed, but with some big surprises in there as well!
Jamie Finch-Penninger

14 Dec 2020 - 1:13 PM 

Jamie Finch-Penninger takes a look at the top nine individual Australian performances of 2020, a year that was impacted by a revised season schedule that saw riders having to adapt and perform as best as possible in a new-look calendar. 

1. Richie Porte's Tour de France podium

Porte's Tour de France campaigns have been blighted by poor luck, disappearing form and crashes. That was again the fear when he dropped time in the crosswinds on Stage 7 of the race, but the Tasmanian just went from strength to strength from there.

He emerged as the third-strongest climber of the race, just off Slovenian top two of Pogačar and Roglič. He then produced a stunning time trial to finish third on the penultimate stage of the race, hopping over Miguel Angel Lopez for the final spot on the podium. A fitting result for a rider that has been aiming so high for so long at the Tour.

Porte's podium 'such a journey'
Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) produced his best Tour de France performance, avoiding the crashes that have marred previous attempts at the general classification.
'Now I can retire happy, this means everything' - Porte climbs onto Paris podium
Richie Porte raced the time trial of his life on the Planche des Belles Filles, riding himself onto the podium in Paris and etching another place in Australian cycling history.
Porte leads into final metres of Grand Colombier climb
Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) continues to impress at the Tour de France, again looking the best of the rest of the climbers behind the top two on the general classification.

2. Jai Hindley's Giro runner-up

The 24-year-old went into the Italian Grand Tour with little fanfare, but with Australians hoping that the West Australian would be able to reproduce some of the climbing form that he'd shown in winning the Herald Sun Tour on a WorldTour scale.

He seemed to get stronger as the race progressed - winning a Stelvio stage that will go down in cycling folklore - but going into the final day's time trial, he went up against a better time triallist and had to be content with second overall. A breakthrough performance for Hindley.

Hindley falls just short of Giro win
Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) fell short of defending the pink leader's jersey at the Giro d'Italia on the final stage time trial, but created history with the best ever finish by an Australian at the Italian Grand Tour.
Hindley moves into Giro lead ahead of thrilling TT finale
Australian Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) moved into the race lead on the penultimate stage of the Giro d'Italia with another stellar performance in the Italian Alps as teammate Wilco Kelderman faltered and slipped out of the pink jersey.
Hindley wins Giro queen stage and moves within touching distance of pink
Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) claimed the stage win after a dramatic stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia saw the general classification upended on the ascent of the legendary climb of the Stelvio.

3. Grace Brown's purple patch

Having her own breakthrough season was Victorian Grace Brown. The Camperdown native was in her third season racing as part of a WorldTour squad after years developing her talents with dominant performances on the domestic scene. 

A series of strong domestique rides at GP Plouay, Giro Rosa and fifth at the world championships time trial had keen observers of the sport excited, but few actually expected another jump was to come so soon. Brown's ride for second at Liege-Bastogne-Liege nearly saw her hunt down escaped star Lizzie Deignan, and then she backed it up with victory at Brabantes Pijl.

Aussie Grace Brown wins Brabantse Pijl Dames
Australian and Mitchelton-Scott rider Grace Brown has stormed home to win the 2020 Brabantse Pijl Dames solo, attacking with 17 kilometres left in the race to cross the finish line in first place.
Australian Grace Brown shines on Liège–Bastogne–Liège debut
Australian Grace Brown has launched a determined counter-attack but was unable to reel in winner Lizzie Deignan as she finished second at the 135km Liège–Bastogne–Liège cycling classic in Belgium, her first appearance at the prestigious race.

4. Rohan Dennis menaces Giro

These were not rides that go down against Dennis' win list but were still some of the best performances of the season for their effect on the race. Dennis produced two vicious prolonged surges of pace on the Stelvio and Sestriere in two separate third-week stages of the Giro d'Italia to flip the race script on its head to the advantage of teammate Tao Geoghegan Hart. 

Dennis dropped every single climber - except for Geoghegan Hart and Hindley - well out from the finish, then would do the job as the only rider pushing the pace all the way to the finish. This allowed Geoghegan Hart to sit on and match Hindley who had done the same while still taking crucial time on Kelderman. 

Geoghegan Hart was superb of course, but that Giro wouldn't have gone his way without Dennis' ridiculous rides.

'I couldn't be happier' - Dennis delighted with Ineos Grenadiers' Giro victory
Rohan Dennis completed a “big personal goal” on Monday after Tao Geoghegan Hart helped Ineos Grenadiers’ to victory at the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

5. Caleb Ewan takes two at Tour de France

It's never easy to win stages at the biggest race in the world and yet we've come to expect it of Caleb Ewan at the Tour de France. His two wins in 2020 highlighted just how hard it is to take sprint wins even when you're the fastest rider at the race. 

He had to come from behind in both of his victories, threading his way through gaps that were barely there and popping out in the final metres to pass for the win. An expected return for Ewan, but that doesn't mean it's any less impressive!

Ewan comes late to secure thrilling win
A final, chaotic sprint lit up a sleepy stage 167-kilometre stage from Châtelaillon-Plage to Poitiers, with Caleb Ewan claiming the victory.
Robbie McEwen breaks down Caleb Ewan's 'absolutely brilliant' victory
SBS Tour de France commentator Robbie McEwen breaks down Australian Caleb Ewan's sensational victory in Sisteron on Stage 3 of the 2020 Tour de France.
Ewan comes from nowhere to win
Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) won the bunch dash into Sisteron, taking stage honours after a drag race between the sprinters.

6. Amanda Spratt's summer

It's a similar theme of expected performance here with Spratt, we've become so used to seeing her dominate the Australian races, but it shouldn't diminish the view of her performances because of heightened expectations. 

Spratt's third national championships road race win was combined with fourth in the time trial, third overall and a stage win at the Tour Down Under and third at Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Another great collection of results against an increasingly competitive international presence at the Aussie races.

WATCH: Spratt Attack wins the RoadNats Women's Road Race
Watch the highlights of the women's road race at the 2020 Road National Championships

7. Ben O'Connor wows at Giro

O'Connor's career has already hit heights at the Giro with a very good ride on the general classification in 2018 before fading late. However, it is this year's wins that will stand the test of time on his resume, and may have played no small role in his new contract with AG2R-Citroen for next year.

A heart-breakingly close 2nd-placed finish after showing strength to bridge over to lone breakaway rider Jan Tratnik on Stage 16 might have been enough for some, but O'Connor went out the very next day. He was straight back into the break, but this time overpowered Herman Pernsteiner to take the win. On stage 18 he was the last man from the break caught on the ascent of the Stelvio, a testament to his amazing form at the race.   

O'Connor enters Giro history - Zwift Cycling Central Podcast

Macka and Christophe analyse Ben O'Connor‘s Giro Stage 17 win, the brutal prospect of the final stages, plus preview La Vuelta Stage 3 - LIVE, FREE and in HD on SBS VICELAND.

Aussie O'Connor roars to stage win at Giro
Australia's Ben O'Connor was left tearfully celebrating the biggest win of his career when he powered away from the field to win the 17th stage of the Giro d'Italia, just 24 hours after being agonisingly denied victory in the previous leg.

8. Sarah Gigante's epic eight-minute win

The National Road Series (NRS) was on hiatus for much of the year, with races and riders holding on in hope for a racing restart in Australia. Everyone finally got a reprieve in late November in the Tweed with a nine-day series of racing. From the women's side of things, all eyes were on WorldTour newbie Sarah Gigante, who had barely had the chance to get her feet wet in competition overseas before being grounded in Melbourne lockdown. 

Gigante flies solo after unhitching Roseman-Gannon
Another tough stage around the climbing-heavy Bilambil route at the National Road Series (NRS) saw Sarah Gigante again attack, drop the other riders and solo into the finish after putting minutes into them on the final 17-kilometre lap.
Gigante's seven minute and 51 second win makes history
Sarah Gigante blitzed her way into the record books with a stunning ride that saw her leave the rest of the peloton behind to solo to victory by seven minutes and 51 seconds on one of the hardest stages of the National Road Series' nine days of racing to decide the 2020 season.
266 days from her last race, Gigante explodes to first start win in NRS finale
Sarah Gigante (TIBCO-SVB) had been without racing since her last start at the Herald Sun Tour, but she showed that she had been putting her time in the Melbourne coronavirus lockdown to good use as she emerged with a terrific opening day performance at the National Tour.

She trained the house down and came back to real racing after a lot of Zwift riding in phenomenal form. Her piece de la resistance of her three wins was her seven minute and 51 second win after breaking away solo with 55 kilometres left in the race on Day 4 of competition. Just an incredible ride en route to her overall NRS individual win.

9. Brendan Johnston overcomes four-minute deficit in decisive ride for NRS overall

'Trekky', an enduro mountain biker most of the time, made the most of his sojourns to the road, winning the Melbourne to Warrnambool and then travelling north to the Tweed with the intention of defending his NRS individual lead. He and his plucky squad came in undergunned, with a team of just four against squads of up to ten over nine days of racing.

Every day was a one-day race, and hard as a result, but the best performance for Johnston was reserved for the 146.3km Day 4 race in the sweltering heat of the northern rivers area. There, he had rivals for the overall title, Cam Scott and Jay Vine, in a strong nine-man breakaway up the road and on their way to uncontested and valuable points that threatened Johnston's lead. 

Trekky defies big teams to claim NRS overall win
Brendan Johnston (CCS Canberra) resisted the pressure of bigger teams, better climbers and better sprinters to haul himself to an individual National Road Series victory over the nine days of competition in and around the Tweed Valley.
White-hot as Trekky ignites scorcher at NRS
Liam White (Oliver's Real Food Racing) produced a flat-out sprint off an attritional day of racing to win on Day 5 of the National Road Series, 146 kilometres in the sweltering heat of northern NSW.

With teams disinterested in chasing and the gap ballooning out to over four minutes, Johnston took up the burden upon himself and dragged the peloton back into the race with a combination of attacking and pace-making that reduced the break's advantage dramatically. He then attacked clear of the peloton and established his own attack at the front of the race ultimately finishing second out of a group of six riders after somehow mustering a finishing sprint after his efforts throughout the race.