Aussie Focus

Getting to the start line first on the agenda for Jones' Olympic Aussies

AusCycling performance director Simon Jones is confident in the medal chances of multiple Australians at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, so long as they can reach the start line without a global pandemic getting in the way.

A squad of 29 riders have travelled to Tokyo ahead of the Games, scheduled to begin on July 24 (AEST) with 22 cycling events set to take place across multiple disciplines including road, track, mountain bikes and BMX racing and freestyle. 

With multiple members of the squad performing at the top of their disciplines heading into the games including newly-crowned BMX freestyle champion Logan Martin and WorldTour riders Lucas Hamilton, Luke Durbridge (Both Team BikeExchange), Richie Porte (INEOS Grenadiers), Amanda Spratt, Grace Brown (Both BikeExchange) and Sarah Gigante (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) to name a few, Jones believes there are chances aplenty for silverware provided the COVID pandemic doesn't interfere.


“This Games is unique and extraordinary, getting on the start line is actually a goal," Jones said in an interview with CyclingNews. 

"All it takes is one close contact with COVID. Everyone has got to travel internationally and we've got to make sure people are healthy and we are really strict with social distancing and preventative measures.

“If we get to the start line, I think we've got a chance and we've got multiple chances across the 22 medal events."

The fact that the Games have already been pushed back a year due to the virus means there have been some setbacks in the squad.

The retirement of four-time track sprint world champion Stephanie Morton caused Australia to withdraw from the team sprint event due to a lack of the required number of participants, while previous men's time trial champion Rohan Dennis will face stiffer competition with an influx of strong new rivals.

But the emergence of young talents, particularly time trial champions Gigante and Luke Plapp (Inform TM Insight) means the delay isn't all bad news for Jones.

"We have won some and we've lost some I would say,” Jones said of the delay.

“If you take a pure outcome perspective we are probably slightly worse for the extra year... across the board.”

With the Tokyo games his final event in charge of the Australian outfit, Jones is looking to Martin in the BMX freestyle as the strongest gold medal chance in what will be the first time the discipline has been included in the Olympics along with other sports such as skateboarding and rock climbing.

“He's a world champion, he's trained and he's healthy and so I think we've got a good chance there,” Jones said of Martin.

“That's going to potentially be the strongest chance for gold, but I don't want to put pressure on anybody. He's just going to go and do his absolute best."

When it comes to the track racing where the highest number of medals are available, Jones believes there's been significant development in his riders but acknowledged there's no way to predict how they'll perform once they go up against the field of international rivals.

“In the timed events we have progressed,” said Jones.

“We haven't raced for such a long time, so all I know is we're going significantly quicker than we have gone before. I guess the question is, what's everybody else doing?

“We set some quite lofty targets and we are meeting them but again, that gives you no guarantee, so we'll find out in two weeks where we sit. But I do know we've physically progressed and we've technically progressed."

Jones sees a similar situation in the women's time trial, where there's been clear advancement in the careers of Brown and Gigante, but the same can be said for the rest of their competitors.

“They've progressed and they are better than they were... but we can't control the others,” Jones said.

“Let's get on the start line healthy and I think we're in with a shout, but it is going to be tiny margins of error. I think a bronze in the time trial is not an unrealistic target.”

Rounding out the field with the men's and women's road races, Jones acknowledged the Dutch teams will be very hard to beat but his riders are up to the challenge and ready to battle for top spot.

The women's quartet of Spratt, Brown, Gigante and Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM) will have to contend with an all-star Dutch lineup of Anna van der Breggen, Demi Vollering (Both SD Worx), Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), while male hopefuls Durbridge, Porte, Hamilton and Dennis face Dutch nationals Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Wilco Kelderman (BORA-Hansgrohe), Dylan van Baarle (INEOS Grenadiers) and semi-pro Yoeri Havik (BEAT).

“You have got to race your own race, and you have got to race to your strengths and I think the way that you get an edge over competition,” said Jones. “You've really got to know the enemy and my view is that if we're responding to the Dutch then that's going to be pretty difficult so we've got to be proactive.

“We've got to actually go with some tactics where it may be a bit of a gamble but equally, if we don't, then there's a good chance we're not going to get anything anyway. We've got nothing to lose.”

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5 min read
Published 21 July 2021 at 10:15am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS