Welcome to the GCN Racing News Show. The 2019
road season has already started with the Australian and New Zealand National Championships taking
place at the weekend, as well as the Bay Crits before that, whilst the cyclocross season
is still in full swing with the DVV Trophy in Brussels. EF Education First announce their
new name and alternative race program, there’s a New Irish professional team, and, we have
a preview of the upcoming women’s Tour down Under. First up, though, let’s take a look at the
newly crowned national road race champions for 2019. In Australia, a new star was born
in the women’s event. Now you may well recognise the name Sarah Gigante from this time last
year, on the first ever GCN Racing News Show. We gave her our first ever rider of the week
award after she’d won the junior women’s criterium, time trial AND road race in Australia.
12 months later, she is the new U23 AND Elite women’s champion, having got the better
of a whole load of worldtour starts, including the entire Australian contingent of Mitchelton
Scott, who had to make do with silver and bronze for Amanda Spratt and Sarah Roy respectively.
Impressive, to say the very least, but it appears her talents do not just rest in cycling,
but also in academia – Gigante is also planning on studying for a degree in medicine. Further
to that, I thought this tweet from Monique Hanley was very enlightening:
“When @SarahGigante was Under 15 she led a protest at the unfairness of racing distances
between boys and girls the same age. Her actions helped trigger a process which (eventually)
led to a new national junior racing policy. She’s a remarkable human in so many ways.”
You’re not wrong there Monique – I’m sure we’ll be hearing plenty more of Sarah in
the very near future, what an inspiring young lady.
One thing that Gigante does still need some time to master is the opening of a champagne
bottle – I loved this clip of Sarah Roy passing on her experience and help to the youngster.
The World Tour pre race favourites also missed out In the men’s event a few hours later.
Mitchelton Scott always have the pressure on their shoulders to perform there, and things
looked to be under control for them, as Cameron Meyer and Luke Durbridge bridged up to the
early four man breakaway which also contained defending champion Alex Edmondson. On the
last lap, Meyer got away with Chris Harper, and it looked to be between them for the green
and gold national championships stripes. However, their game of cat and mouse in the final kilometres
allowed another rider from the early break, Michael Freiberg, to not only catch them in
the last kilometre, but also immediately attack them for the win.
Freiberg, 28, is a former World Omnium champion on the track, and the founder of Airhub, a
front hub that gives you extra resistance to help your training. This year’s Australian
Elite champions are clearly a talented bunch, both on and off the bike. That was no consolation
to Cameron Meyer, though, who was visibly upset after being unable to fulfil his dream
of becoming national road champion. Meanwhile over in New Zealand, U23 riders
took both the Elite titles. In fact, in the women’s event, under 23 riders filled the
first four places, with Georgia Christie the best of them all, holding on by 12 seconds
after a long solo move on the final circuits. It was also a solo attack that won the men’s
race, with 20 year old James Fouché coming home over three minutes ahead of his closest
rival, Kees Duyvesteyn. The first NON under 23 was EF Education First’s Tom Scully,
prompting a jubilant Jonathan Vaughters to tweet his congratulations on the new jersey,
only to be brought straight back down with a bang when he was informed of the rules.
Interestingly, Elite Time Trial winner Patrick Bevin of CCC, was unable to use his new team
kit for the time trial itself as the new skinsuits haven’t arrived yet. So, he rode in his
Waikato Bay of Plenty Centre kit, which didn’t hold him back, as he took his 2nd title in
3 years. Well done to all the newly crowned national
champions and apologies that we don’t have time to go through every category and discipline. Prior to the Australian national championships,
as ever, were the Bay Crits. The real story of the men’s events there was the incredible
return of Marco Haller. The Austrian’s career almost ended in April last year when he was
hit by a car while training, suffering a double fractures to his patella and a fracture to
his left femur. But Haller didn’t quit the sport, and in one of his first races back
he won the first stage of the Bay Crits in Geelong, Australia. Not only that, Haller
hung on to win the overall after the three days of racing. Days two and three were won
by Caleb Ewan, taking his first wins for his new team, Lotto-Soudal.
In the women’s race the leaders jersey changed hands every day. Orica-Scott’s Amanda Spratt
took her first win of the season on stage one, stage two was taken by Chloe Hosking
of Ale-Cipollini, and the final stage was won by Peta Mullens with a solo breakaway.
But the overall was won by Valentina Scandolara of Roxsolt-Attaquer, who finished in the top
4 on every day. Over to Cyclocross now, and there were wins
for both Mathieu Van Der Poel AND Wout Van Aert at the weekend, thanks mainly to the
fact the Van Aert travelled a few hundred kilometres to Brittany to compete on Sunday
at the CycloCross International de Mezier, where he collected a reported €20,000 prize
money, and a comfortable win over Clement Venturini.
Van Der Poel, given his form this year, probably didn’t even notice the World Champions absence,
taking his 100th career win on Saturday at the Cyclocross Gullegem, backed up yesterday
by yet another win at the DVV Trophy on a new course in Brussels, 45s to the good of
World Cup leader Toon Aerts. In the women’s event it was yet another
story of a youngster coming to the fore, with European U23 champion Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado
taking her first senior win. Her win yesterday meant that there have now been 7 different
winners at the 7 rounds so far – the open nature of the women’s events couldn’t
be further from the men’s right now. In other news, there is a new name for EF
Education First Drapac powered by Cannondale. Are you ready? It is, EF Education First.
That’s it – just as I’ve mastered their incredibly long name, they go and shorten
it! They’ve also announced some of their alternative race calendar for this year. They
will be sending riders to the Dirty Kanza, Leadville 100, Three Peaks Cyclo Cross and
the Taiwan KOM Challenge. No major surprises there, those are 4 of the most high profile
events away from the professional cycling calendar, but it’s still going to be interesting
to see how they get on, and if they add any further events – maybe the Red Hook Crits
were deemed too risky and dangerous? Onto some news now that I somehow managed
to miss when it was announced late last year. There will be a new Irish Continental pro
team in the peloton this year, called Evo Pro Racing. And they’ve managed to net themselves
an impressive roster – amongst the 17 rider line-up are former Cannondale WorldTour pro
Wouter Wippert, along with ex AquaBlueSport riders Shane Archbold, the flying mullett,
and Aaron Gate, and the Italian Eugenio Alafaci, formerly of Trek Segafredo. We wish them the
best of luck in their first season. We shall finish with a very brief preview
of the Women’s Tour down Under, a four day race which begins on Thursday. An in-form
Amanda Spratt will be looking to defend her crown there, but will face competition from
the likes of Brodie Chapman, the revelation of last year’s Herald Suntour, Ashley Moolman
Pasio, who will make her debut in CCC colours, Elisa Longo Borghini of the newly formed Trek
Segafredo team, Rachel Neylan, who will be riding for the national team, and last year’s
National Champion Shannon Malseed of Team Tibco SVB.
Stage 1 takes the riders 113km’s from Hahndorf to Birdwood in what is expected to be a bunch
sprint. Stage 2 should see a bit of a shake-up on GC, finishing as it does on Mengler Hill.
Stage 3 will be the last realistic chance for any further change on the GC, taking in
the loop of Stirling, Heathfield and Aldgate including the climb to the finish line in
Stirling itself, because the final stage on Sunday is a 42.5km circuit race around Adelaide.
OK, that’s all for this week. I’ll be back next week with a report from the women’s
Tour down Under, and the Australian Time Trial championships, so I hope to have your company
again then. Before then, if you’d like to see me starting my own challenge, getting
back to fitness in 10 weeks, you can see me suffering down here: