There appears to be a little bit of indignation swirling around about the presence of a handful of Avanti riders in the UniSA-Australia team for the Santos Tour Down Under.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

In Belinda Hoare's article published on Cycling Central yesterday, issues were raised over the make-up of the team, the lack of South Australians, and whether Avanti was unfairly represented. She was not alone in raising several questions in relation to the make-up of the team. But there is always an opposing view and contrary to Hoare and others, I believe this year's team is the right one.

Uni-SA is a team designed, in the words of Kevin Tabotta, to give ambitious young Australian riders the chance to move up and progress in the sport. It's a team that has saved careers, and helped launch others. It's a development tool used in concert with the existing high performance structures, the WorldTour Academy, the National Road Series, and the National Program. But the critical point is that every rider in the team needs to be on an upward trajectory. Riding with UniSA-Australia is a privilege, an enviable opportunity that selectors are understandably unwilling to squander on riders that won't cut the mustard, or that are not fully committed to pursuing a professional career in the sport.

The class of 2014 ticks all those boxes.

First, it's important to understand the constraints. Three riders had to be pre-selected before the nationals last week had even begun, and none could ride for a WorldTour team or Drapac Professional Cycling. Then there's the fact that several riders voluntarily rule themselves out, or are barred from racing, as in the case of Zak Dempster. Any rider taking on the Track Nationals next week is also out, so no Alex Edmondson or Luke Davison. Already, the pool of riders selectors can consider is pretty small. Even so the candidates that were pre-selected stand out: Caleb Ewan, Jack Haig, and Campbell Flakemore; a wunderkind sprinter, the 2013 NRS champion, and the guy who narrowly missed a spot on the under-23 world time trial podium. All three stand apart as the form riders of last season.

That leaves four spots up for grabs, and four to be decided on the weight of form in Ballarat.

Mark O'Brien was the top finisher in the elite men's road race who was eligible to race. His inclusion is a no-brainer. He brings a wealth of top-level racing experience, and is a genuine chance at doing a good race in the GC.

Anthony Giacoppo finished second behind Steele Von Hoff in the criterium, had a strong 2013, and raced the Tour Down Under last year. A missile when lined up in the right direction, he bolsters Ewan's hopes of snaring a stage this week in Adelaide.

Bradley Linfield is coming off two solid years in Europe and a consistent season with the WorldTour Academy. Although he finished behind Robert Power in the under-23 road race, Power is only a first year under-23, making him ineligible. Ewan missed out for the same reason last year.

Neil van der Ploeg was injured for much of 2013 but had a dazzling start to last season when he finished fourth in the elite men's road race, and has been a consistent performer in the National Road Series for the best part of the past two years. He was one of a handful of bigger guys to finish the elite men's road race this year.

Together it's a balanced squad of strength and versatility, a sprinkle of youth, with a few 'older' riders still fighting to break out of the domestic scene, but who have distinguished themselves over the past few seasons. So of those four riders, who might have made it? And who are the controversial omissions?

Some have suggested Chris Jory. The New South Welshman was one of the more active riders in the day's breakaway and has been a solid all rounder in Europe and Australia for the past few years. Nathan Elliot rode a good race, while Rhys Gillett took out the KOM title. Any of those three could have made it, but who would you swap out?

Jory could, perhaps have been a like-for-like switch for van der Ploeg but van der Ploeg is a bigger asset for Ewan in the sprints. Gillett's a pure climber, but in for O'Brien? No chance. Tim Roe could have got a call up but failed to do enough in the road race, and there's every chance the South Australian will return to the WorldTour on his own steam in 2015 anyway. Only 24 and with top-tier experience already on his CV Roe doesn't need to be at the Tour Down Under.

One rider who has perhaps been hard done by is Harry Carpenter. The South Australian is the coin-flip selection, the guy that could've found himself in Adelaide if the selection god's had smiled in his favour. Carpenter was less than one second from the under-23 time trial title and animated the road race. He could have made it into UniSA over Linfield, but then again Linfield's record is more compelling.

This team brings together the seven guys who made the best case to be in Adelaide, and while there is always controversy over selections, there's also a sound, reasoned selection process to the make-up of the class of 2014 that's been well thought out and considered. That's my take, but what do you think? On which side of the selection fence do you sit?