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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.