State of the Nation: Australian Men’s Team Analysis for 2021 World Championships

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Ahead of the 2021 UCI Road World Championships, Cyclingnews takes a look at the key teams for elite road races. We looked at the men’s teams from the United States and Britain, now it’s time for Australia.

Story

Cadel Evans became the first Australian to win the elite men’s road race at the 2009 UCI Road World Championships, delivering a moderate but emotional victory celebration after attacking from the break to cross the finish line in solo in Mendrisio. Australia have also taken the bottom steps of the elite class on several occasions since the turn of the century, most recently with Michael Matthews finishing third in 2017 and second in 2015. Matthews has also been successful in the under 23, winning the jersey in his home country, when the World Championships were held in Geelong in 2010. The most recent Australian rider on the U23 road race podium was Caleb Ewan, who finished second in 2014. He is also Australia’s most recent podium in the junior men’s race, winning silver in 2012.

Align

  • Michael matthews
  • Caleb Ewan
  • Luke Durbridge
  • Miles scotson
  • Nick schultz
  • Harry sweeny
  • Robert stannard
  • Nathan Haas

Key jumpers

Tour de France 2021 108th edition 6th stage Tours Chateauroux 1604 km 01072021 Michael Matthews AUS Team Bikeexchange photo Luca BettiniBettiniPhoto2021

Michael Matthews, who twice podiumed in the men’s elite road race for Australia at the World Road Championships (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

In the elite men’s race, Australia are one of ten teams qualifying for eight riders, providing a strong squad to support Michael Matthews and Caleb Ewan.

Matthews has a strong record in world championship standings, having stepped onto the podium twice in the elite category and taking the Under-23 victory. Last year he played a dual leadership role alongside Richie Porte on the climb course and was Australia’s top finisher, crossing the line in seventh place.

The 30-year-old’s ability to finish quickly while making climbs difficult enough to rule out many sprinters means this year’s course showcases his strengths. The season so far, however, has been far from one of its best as while Matthews has often been close to the front of the field, he has yet to raise his arms in the air to celebrate. a victory.

Ewan, meanwhile, has taken more than his share of victories, but he entered the year with another big goal: to win at least one stage on every Grand Tour. This goal was derailed by a high speed accident while sprinting towards the finish line of stage 3 of the Tour de France. The complex displaced fracture of his right collarbone put him out of action for almost two months, meaning the Lotto Soudal rider’s races in the second half of the season were limited. Still, he showed the speed is still there with a victory on stage 5 of the Benelux Tour earlier this month.

Plus, while the climbs on the course can be a factor that casts doubt that a tuck sprint specialist like Ewan could be in contention at the end, he has surprised with his ability to survive other tough courses this season. . Ewan was an unexpected figure who held a position close to the front in the explosive climb from Poggio to Milan-San Remo, where he finished second, and he won an unexpected second stage at the Baloise Belgium Tour on the hilly stage 4 .

Strengths

Australia lines up in the elite men’s road race with a strong group of riders, who know how to work together, and who also offer options for several different scenarios.

Matthews – who excels at finishing quickly when the peloton is small on the climbs and could be part of a small group – has other TeamBikeExchange riders Robert Stannard, Luke Durbridge and Nick Schultz in the squad. Durbridge is a powerful workaholic, Schultz can provide climbing force and Stannard finished sixth at Brabantse Pijl – which has some of the same climbs as the world championship course.

Ewan, who is a good prospect regardless of the size of the field at the finish line, has Lotto-Soudal teammate Harry Sweeny by his side, who joined the sales team this year as part of his train. of head. Ewan was also a teammate with all of the Team BikeExchange riders who were selected while riding for the team until the end of 2018. Then there is the support rider from Groupama-FDJ, Miles Scotson, and Nathan Haas de Cofidis to complete the team.

TOPSHOT Team LottoSoudal Australias rider Caleb Ewan celebrates at the finish line after winning the fifth stage of the 2021 Giro dItalia, 177 km cycling race between Modena and Cattolica EmiliaRomagna on May 12, 2021 Photo by Dario BELINGHERI AFP Photo by DARIO BELINGHERIAFP via Getty Images

Caleb Ewan celebrates one of his two wins at this year’s Giro d’Italia (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Weaknesses

In the elite men’s road race, although the team is strong and led by competent riders, a course that could well result in early selection or decisive attacks on the climbs makes it more difficult for Ewan. He might be one of the best runners when it comes to sprinting, but for that to matter, the race has to go in such a way that he can hang on to fight for victory in the end. There is now a question mark over Ewan’s form as well, with the sprinter having finished last in the first two stages of the Tour de Luxembourg before retiring to stage 3 to rest and recuperate for the Championships. of the world.

As far as Matthews is concerned, while the course may play to its strengths, it’s not exactly on a winning streak. Although Matthews has won several podiums this year, he is yet to claim a victory. The team may be solid with strong riders but lack a superstar, like Julian Alaphilippe or Wout van Aert, who can still finish work on the style which we will of course see in Flanders.

The view from Australia

Road races at the Olympics failed to deliver the results they hoped for for Australia with the promising men’s team, led by Richie Porte, failing to even deliver a top ten rider. Although it is difficult to argue that this is a result that has destroyed the morale of Australian cycling fans – as there have been many impressive individual performances from the Australians while competing with their commercial teams for keep it high – but there’s nothing quite like seeing a country’s best runners come together to deliver. This is especially the case given that the World Championships are now starting to become more focused for fans of green and gold, as after Belgium the next host is Wollongong, Australia. The last time the event was in Australia, Cadel Evans wore the Rainbow Stripes in the year before and, of course, a repeat of that scenario this time would be a construction result of dream anticipation.

Matthews, too, as one of the nation’s top prospects to deliver a rainbow jersey, has landed close to target at the World Championships for years and if he could ever do with a direct hit, that would be the year. If his shortage of wins continues until the end of the season, it will be the first since the 30-year-old joined a WorldTour team in 2011 that he did not earn on the table. If he could secure that victory in Flanders, however, the rest of the season would soon be forgotten.

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