Well-liked and genuine in his dealings with people, Crome’s win will be seen as one for the good guys. Straight after the win, he was quick to dedicate the victory to his fallen friend, Jason Lowndes, who was hit and killed by a car on December 22 in his and Crome's home town of Bendigo.
“It’s been a really tough time,” said Crome. “Late last year, that was one of my best mates, Jason Lowndes, killed in the accident with a car. It’s really hit home hard with us all in Bendigo."
The despair at the loss of his friend was tempered by the knowledge that the victory was something ‘Lowndesy’ would have enjoyed being a part of.
“He just would have loved that, so that one was for him today,” said Crome. “The guys from Bendigo came together really close at that time and we went to Bendigo really wanting a result for him."
"I guess that one was for him, he’d have really enjoyed that one looking down.”
The death of Jason Lowndes has sent shockwaves through the Australian cycling community, but particularly in Bendigo, which is home to a tight-knit and very keen group of cyclists.
“It just puts everything into perspective,” said Crome. "Nothing really matters. You’re out there doing something that you love and he’s not.
“No matter how much it hurts or how hard it is, you just keep going and going and going. You’ve got your life, you’ve got your family and friends and he’s not here. It’s really hard and it means a lot.”
The win comes as a high point in the 24 year-old’s career. He’s been a consistent presence of National Road Series (NRS) results sheets and even took a Tour of Japan stage win in 2016. But to win in Australia and relegate two World Tour riders in Cameron Meyer (Mtichelton-Scott) and Ruben Guerreiro (Trek-Segafredo) into the minor placings is on a different level.
“The guys have been giving me a bit of flak because that’s the one to win because it’s live on TV,” said Crome. “I suppose it’s true. I’m just stoked with that one, it all came together in the end.
“I’ve had some good results over the last two years but this one probably tops it all. It’s one of the biggest races we do as a team, it’s probably going to take a while to sink in.”
Immediately after the race, teammate Dylan Sunderland’s response to Crome's was "That's one for the good guys." It was a typical response of many in the peloton to Crome's victory; he's well liked within the Australian cycling scene.
Steve Price, team director for the Bennelong SwissWellness squad, was excited for the victory but particularly took pleasure in the fact it was Crome who got the win.
“It feels particularly good because it was Sam,” said Price. “He’s a great kid and he gives 110 per cent in everything he does. He’s the first guy to do something for his teammates, he never thinks about himself, he always puts the team first."
The potential for Crome to proceed to higher levels of cycling is an aspect of riders' development Bennelong SwissWellness prides itself on, being one of the top Continental teams to elevate many riders to the World Tour in its history.
“He had a great stage win at the Tour of Japan a couple of years ago,” said Price,” I thought that was a big result but today is bigger again and it couldn’t happen to a nicer kid.
“He’s really knuckled down and tried to find his way and today’s just confirmation that he’s there. He’s figured it out and I think he’s got a big future.”
Crome himself has ambitions to race at a higher level more consistently, but isn’t letting it bother his focus at this stage of his career.
“It’s always been the goal and I would love to,” said Crome. “I just try not to think about it too much. We do have a team calendar for the rest of the year but I’m unsure what I’m going to do, so you just don’t worry about it.
“I had a very good ride at nationals and then I knew I was doing this, so I stayed home and trained really hard for this. It’s just all payed off.”
At 24-years-old, Crome may be past the ideal age World Tour teams often like to take riders. However, his combination of climbing and sprinting ability is quite rare and may endear him to the bigger squads.
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