Funny thing Miles Scotson called BMC Racing "the ultimate team" when he signed for them last year, because Sunday in Buninyong, he was completely alone.
For all the talk of BMC Racing being cashed up and buying who they want with owner Andy Rihs' fat chequebook, it was refreshing to see one of their riders use his own smarts, instead of someone else's.
"If I am doing the time trial and road race at nationals, obviously it will be important for me as I always want to go there and give it my all," he told Cyclingnews' Zeb Woodpower in a November 22 interview. "But with it being my first pro season, I probably won't go there in flying form because I don't think I have raced a full season on the road. I'll listen to the team and be patient."
"Still, it must be said, a rather bizarre sight: a 22-year-old kid with a face not unlike a young Michael Rogers, seemingly overgeared, certainly, grossly underestimated, yet nonetheless powering past his erstwhile companions."
Thursday last, in the elite men's time trial, when the 22-year-old South Australian finished fifth to his BMC Racing team-mate Rohan Dennis, who defended his title, Scotson's result was therefore true to form, even though two years earlier as an Under-23, he won his category in both the time trial and the road race. (Last year he was beaten into second by his younger brother, Callum, two-and-a-half years his junior, who will be riding on the BMC Development Team this season.) He was indeed being patient; as he trained during the off-season, undertaking some of the minor Spring Classics his team has him down to ride, as well as racing consistently from January to September, were no doubt occupying his thoughts.
Still, the eve of the elite men's road race, his first year contesting the senior ranks, despite being outnumbered 6-1 by Orica-Scott and 12-1 by IsoWhey Sports Swisswellness, he dared to dream big. "I was dreaming about it yesterday but probably (thinking I'm) not going to make the finish today, but still dreaming of being Australian champion - and that's why I think I had that mentality of 'all in'," he said Sunday, moments after dream became reality.
Being a first-year neo-pro, Scotson was clearly underrated as a potential winner on the unforgiving 183.6 kilometre Buninyong parcours - even when he was just one of 14 remaining on the final lap. Simon Gerrans, Nathan Haas, Jay McCarthy, Nathan Earle... but not Miles Scotson.
When they crested Mount Buninyong for the eighteenth and final time, having caught the unfortunate Brendan Canty, who mistakenly thought his race over a lap earlier, and the almost tireless Luke Durbridge, race commentator Matthew Keenan called it perfectly when Scotson gave his fellow escapees some leeway and his co-commentator Phil Liggett wondered if he was being dropped on the run-in to the line. "No, he's getting ready to wind it up!" he told the Voice of Cycling. Recalled Scotson: "No one really jumped and I was just kind of winding. I know that you can carry your speed on that descent and I must have hit that downhill and kept the pace and the gap went out without pedalling. I was still doing the track mid-year last year for Rio, and I think track power means something."
It didn't mean enough to earn a place for Rio in the team pursuit but on Sunday it meant plenty in the final, nail-biting kilometres. Still, it must be said, a rather bizarre sight: a 22-year-old kid with a face not unlike a young Michael Rogers, seemingly overgeared, certainly, grossly underestimated, yet nonetheless powering past his erstwhile companions - one, two, three, four, five, six... thirteen! - then nothing but open road between he and his more credentialed peers.
It left this viewer gobsmacked.
"I waited behind on that last lap and just whacked them and wound the gear out and tried to tuck low on that descent," said Scotson, who, the day before, asked his mechanic to put on a 54-tooth front chainring, just in case such a scenario eventuated. "When I got to the bottom of that hill and seeing the gap that I had, I couldn't believe it. I was like, 'Wow, this really going to happen'."
From a guy who, 24 hours earlier didn't think he'd make the finish, to national elite men's road champion.
Afterwards, despite whacking them good and proper, Scotson was still wondering about "the big jump" when it came to racing full-time in Europe and "whether I can handle it".
We've seen how he rides. We've heard him talk.
Don't worry too much, Miles; you'll do just fine.