From a happy and healthy group of nine who began last year's Tour in
Brest, Australians at cycling's main event could be facing their
leanest line-up in two years.
So far, just six Aussies have been confirmed to take to the start line in Monaco on July 4: Cadel Evans, Matthew Lloyd, Michael Rogers, Mark Renshaw, Stuart O'Grady and Brett Lancaster.
Not since the 2007 Tour de France has Australia fielded such a small contingent, when Evans, Rogers, O'Grady, Lancaster, Robbie McEwen and Simon Gerrans represented the land Down Under at the 94th edition of La Grande Boucle.
showed incredible fortitude to come back from a crash late into the
opening road stage to Canterbury, England, where he brilliantly bested
all and sundry; Rogers found himself in the maillot jaune virtuelle before crashing out with O'Grady
on Stage 8; and perhaps most significantly, Evans came of age and
within 23 seconds of being the first ever Australian to win the Tourde France (as well as taking two second places and one third), beaten only by Spanish wunderkind Alberto Contador Ã¢â¬â the man who will once again be his Ã¢â¬â and everyone else's Ã¢â¬â greatest nemesis in 2009.
Hopefully Ã¢â¬â and after all that's gone on with the stunning preclusion last Thursday of Simon Gerrans in the Cervelo line-up, I do mean hopefully Ã¢â¬â Quick Step will have the smarts to take this year's Tour Down Under champ Allan Davis with them, particularly after ASO's 'not welcome invitation' they extended to Tom Boonen
for his apparent predisposition to the white stuff (although that
matter's likely to be settled in court this coming Tuesday); andSkil-Shimano finds it in their souls to include Victorian Mitchell Docker as part of their final nine.
If Ã¢â¬â and once again, I say 'if' with the anticipation of a
five-year-old on Christmas Eve who anxiously waits for Santa to come
down the chimney Ã¢â¬â Davis and Docker are included, we find ourselves one
short of our Aussie contingent of yesteryear and two off our previous
best mark of 10 at the 2005 Tourde France, though more than the five we sent in 2006. But 2009 could have easily been a record.
We don't need to say more about 'Gerro' except that it's a travesty he won't be there to support defending champion Carlos Sastre, or selflessly spend days on end chasing down dangerous breaks for Sastre or Norwegian sprinter and 2005 green jersey victor, Thor Hushovd.
However, there's a raft of other Aussies who have been left on the
bench; left to wonder what might have been this July as they watch from
the box, like most of you will do onSBS into the wee hours each morning.
A Trojan workhorse from last year's Tour, Adam Hansen of Columbia-High Road is missing.
had the opportunity to take any one of three Aussies from Trent Lowe,
Chris Sutton or Cameron Meyer. To be fair, team owner/manager JonathanVaughters has chosen a strong nine and gave strong supporting reasons behind his final choice that aims to put Christian Vande Velde
on the podium, though Sutton could have easily been subbed for Kiwi
Julian Dean, and Cam Meyer for American Danny Pate. I understand
T-Lowe's been sick of late and wasn't in good shape, so let's hope we
see the diminutive climber in good health and good form come theVuelta a EspaÃ±a.
Rabobank, searching for the Paris podium's top step with Giro d'Italia champ Denis Menchov, has kept Matthew Hayman and Graeme Brown at bay. Like Garmin, it's a solid line-up and naturally, climber-heavy. If there's one rider that could have been replaced, big-boy Matty Hayman in my mind would have done as good a job as rouleur Joost Posthuma Ã¢â¬â though it's understandable the Dutchie got the nod.
No argument over Saxo Bank's choice not to include Matt Goss. Sastre may no longer be part of Bjarne Riis'
team but the wily Dane still holds the same lofty objective as last
year, and that is to win the race with the prodigious AndySchleck . Out
of the 20 teams to take part it's arguably the most experienced, and
when the pressure's on, experience counts for everything.
FranÃ§aise des Jeux's Wesley Sulzberger will also need to wait at least another year, although like Goss, one can understand his absence given the 23-year-old's in his neo-pro season. Still, over the 20 or so Tours I've seen, there have been plenty of FDJ
inclusions (mostly French) who haven't done diddly squat, other than
limp around France like a three-legged dog for three weeks and ask for
Perhaps the most notable absentee will be McEwen, yet it is injury rather than poor form or team politics that has kept the tenacious Rockin' Robbie away. It will kill him not to be there, even though he isn't saying so.
As of June 24, he's 37 years young. Though beware: the minute you think
he's done and about to hang the race wheels in the shed, the fluent
Flemish speakingQueenslander has an uncanny knack of going large and taking a big win, so don't discount his chances at the Vuelta, an Autumn Classic like Paris-Tours, or next year's Tour.
No matter how many Aussies take to the start line on July 4, cycling fans Down Under should not despair.
Because in 2002 Ã¢â¬â a year when just four Australians got the call-up to the Tour de France Ã¢â¬â McEwen took two stage wins and his first of three maillots verts; Brad McGee won a fantastic stage in Avranches; Baden Cooke finished second to McEwen on the Champs Ãâ°lysÃ©es and showed glimpses of what he would the following year, emulating McEwen's green jersey feat; and Stuey O'Grady finished third in the points classification.
SoÃ¢â¬¦ Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Ã¢â¬â allez, allez, allez!.....And there's always Heinrich Haussler.