You could hear a pin drop. Cadel Evans, Richie Porte, Simon Gerrans. Mount Buninyong.
The quiet had been sudden, and unexpected. Only moments before, the sight of Cadel Evans in the drops grinding himself into the lead had inspired cheers. Now there was nothing. Gerrans, Cameron Meyer and Porte were back with Evans, and, the Orica-GreenEDGE duo riding smooth and in concert together. Gerrans was poised. The crowd dulled.
It was the 12th of January, and Gerrans would go on to win his second national title. There was a lot of support out there for the 33 year old, but not in comparison to Evans, who is beloved.
A week later at the Santos Tour Down Under the Evans-Gerrans contest was again repeated. The silence, no more deafening at the top of Willunga Hill as Evans once more faltered, Gerrans cooly riding his own tempo before clawing back the necessary seconds to win a third Down Under title.
It's not all that curious to explain Evans's all-eclipsing profile in Australia. He's a legend of the sport, a man who has propelled cycling in Oz from obscure to mainstream, and made history in 2011 when he, as we all remember, won the Tour de France.
But I like to think it's how we've gotten to know Evans over the years that has really won him over with fans. The struggle, the 'oh so close', the heartbreak that was, count 'em, 2006, 2007, 2008. Two devastating, career-ending years, and then back with a bang in 2011. Evans took Australia for a ride, and when it ended, we felt we knew him. His obscurities, his fragility and his fight.
We, as a community, and indeed as one of my colleagues raised today, want to hang on to him, we don't want those memories to fade (and perhaps they won't with the upcoming Giro, 'Carn Cadel!). Evans, though, and this is to take nothing away from him, was a thoroughbred from a young age. A precocious bike rider with a physique predicated to one day win the Tour, and then he didÃ¢â¬¦
Which takes me to Gerrans. A rider who was never seen as the man he would become.
Who had to overcome a difficult progression through the sport, unsupported by the AIS.
Who had to overcome the fact that asthma, the respiratory illness he has carried since childhood, and allergies tend to flare in the European spring; the very time the races most suited to him take place.
And on Sunday, who had to overcome, an equally strong rival in Alejandro Valverde to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the oldest and arguably toughest one day classic on the calendar.
Gerrans may not have been the prodigy of some of his contemporaries and his story, of dedication, hard work, and a slow and steady progression through his career may not be exciting, but it's no less inspiring. Of 112th, turning to 98th. Of top-20s turning to top-10s. We love the underdog, in Evans, but forget that Gerrans's whole career, in a flash of speed at the finish, behind his wide smile, and perfect soundbites, is weighed in struggle.
Surely, with two national titles, stage wins across all three Grand Tours, one-day success in Liege, Quebec, Plouay, San Remo, a yellow jersey, Gerrans now, more than ever deserves his time in the sun. He's been an exemplary ambassador for the sport in this country, we only now need to properly embrace him.