National success is measured as much on the small personal victories in minor races as it is on the big stages of the ProTour, and for Australian road cyclists plying their trade in Europe and around the world it has been a solid two weeks of racing.
Michael Matthews' first stage performance in the Tour of Langkawi
in Malaysia is the latest of those small victories, and for Australian
road cycling count as much as Michael Rogers overall win in theVuelta a Andalucia last week.
performances show a growing depth in the sport off of what can only be
described as a small base compared to the traditional sporting codes
played in this country.
Results from the first two months of the
season show that Australian cycling at an international level,
continues to punch above its weight.
For Matthews it was a
surprise first up win as a professional: "It's unbelievable. I came
here wanting to win but not expecting it, so it's really good."
The Canberran rides for the Jayco sponsored Australian Institute of Sport team and has a developing palmares which includes two podium finishes in the Under 23 road and time trial events at the 2010 Australian National Championships.
While Matthews may not be as well know as his aged peers - riders like the Meyer brothers Jack Bobridge and Leigh Howard - his first win in Malaysia signals that we could see him eventually joining their ranks in the European peloton.
of the twenty-somethings plying their trade in the lower levels of
Europe is Victorian Simon Clarke who rides for the ItalianISD-Neri team.
The 2008 U23 road champion Clarke was the best placed Australian finishing in 12th place at the Classica Sarda Olbia-Pantogia, where he played an important role in leading out teammate Giovanni Visconti to the win.
of the old hands also played their parts in the early stages of the
European season and a couple were knocking on the door of a win.
For seasoned riders like Brett Lancaster and Matthew Hayman it was just another day at the office in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
Crevelo's Lancaster placed a solid 18th while Team Sky's new signing, super domestique, Matthew Hayman drove right to the end crossing the line the 26th and final place in a race marked by some of the most difficult conditions ever encountered by a professional peloton.
Not to be left out was 2009 World Champion Cadel Evans, who, building for a serious challenge at the Giro d'Italia, just missed the podium at the GP Insubria in Italy, placing 5th.
Two riders did come close to joining Rogers on the top step of a podium, Rabobank's Graeme Brown picked up a third in the Clasica de AlmerÃa, while Australian-German Heinrich Haussler went one better in the first semi-classic of the season, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, finishing second.
on from good results in the January and February warm weather races in
Australia, Qatar and Oman, the international Australian contingent are
clearly building to even stronger results for the rest of 2010 and the
October World Championships, which will be held their Geelong backyard.
Is it too early to call it a "best ever" season?