25 Jan 2022

Santos Tour Down Under race director Stuart O’Grady revealed a peloton laden with teenagers too young to vote, WorldTour stars and amateurs including a sparky that works 60 hours a week.

O’Grady, a two-time Tour Down Under winner, Paris-Roubaix champion and Olympic gold medal winner is craving for a Santos Festival of Cycling which is about to showcase what Australia is producing at all levels of road racing.

With a tone of excitement in his voice, O’Grady is again expecting WorldTour teams to closely scout talent after current Australian national road champion Luke Plapp won a WorldTour contract on the back of his stunning performances at the 2021 Santos Festival of Cycling.

“It’s exciting,’’ O’Grady said before the impressive peloton gathers at Mount Barker Road Stirling for the Ziptrack men’s stage 1 on Thursday.

“If you’re a young kid with a bit of form and knowing that last year Luke Plapp got out of it a WorldTour contract with the biggest team in the world, INEOS Grenadiers, it’s a good incentive.

“We’ve got some fantastic young riders in the under 19s, we have another Rogers.

“Cam Rogers from Bike Exchange-Jayco is 17, he is wearing the national junior jersey after winning the Junior Men National Road Race Champion and he is the son of (ex-professional road rider) Peter Rogers and a family member of our very own Mick Rogers (a triple world time trial champion).

“The bloodline is running strong there.

“You’ve got another young stagiaire with BikeExchange-Jayco’s Hamish Mackenzie, 17, the young kid who got second to CCS’s Cam Rogers and there’s Oscar Chamberlain, 17,  coming through.

“For these guys they’ll be like kids in a candy shop.

“The opportunity to race with BikeExchange-Jayco, with Luke Durbridge to tackle Richie Porte from Garmin Australia on Willunga Hill on stage 3, you can’t get any better than that for these young kids.

“For the older guys, they may be older than a lot of the peloton, but still pretty young in my opinion, there is a really good mixture of talent.

“Blake Quick, 21, from Inform TMX Make, he won both the Bay Crits recently and the road national under 23 road race.”

O’Grady also praised the men that are on the start list that are forced to work hard in other jobs to enjoy bike racing with the professionals at the Santos Festival of Cycling.

“You’ve got guys like Brendan Johnson (Giant Racing Team) he is a sparky in the daytime doing 60 hours a week and he crams training in on the side,’’ O’Grady said.

“Then there is Jensen Plowright (Team Westpac) too.

“The majority of the guys out there are amateur.

“But again, it’s an opportunity, the stages have been designed to be short, sharp and entertaining so 114km all-round so it should be fast and furious and the shorter distance will help out the semi pros of the peloton.”

However, despite the peloton having some enthusiastic guns from all levels of road racing, O’Grady believes WorldTour mainstays Luke Durbridge, current national time trial champion Rohan Dennis and Chris Harper from Jumbo-Visma, Porte and Plapp (INEOS Grenadiers), Cam Meyer and Callum Scotson (BikeExchange-Jayco) won’t want to be embarrassed on home soil.

Especially Durbridge, the reigning Santos Festival of Cycling champion.

“BikeExchange-Jayco are coming to the race with just three of their WorldTour riders, they’re undermanned,’’ O’Grady said.

Durbridge, Cam Meyer and Callum Scotson and they have a couple of really young kids, they’re going to be vulnerable.

 “Obviously Durbo, he has the Santos Festival of Cycling title and he doesn’t want to be beaten by domestic riders, he is a WorldTour rider.

“So, in saying that you have Team Garmin Australia with Richie Porte and Luke Plapp.

“We saw Luke’s domination winning the national road title and he is going to be very hard to beat.

“I’m sure Richie has been in Tasmania training hard and then you have Rohan Dennis and Chris Harper teaming up for Villawood.

“It’s nowhere near the entire WorldTour level but for a culmination it’s really hard to know what’s really going to happen in the stages.

“The first two stages aren’t too hard but there is an opportunity for an attack on some climbs which may not look like much when you’re out for a casual ride.

“If Rohan Dennis decides to attack up a little climb out of Lobethal before the finish, you’re going to have to be right on his wheel to stay with him.

“And that’s the same for stage 2 around Woodside.

“It’s a little climb out of Quarry Road, it’s only about 800m long but once again if Durbridge, Luke Plapp, Porte and Dennis start having a ‘mano-a-mano’ (battle).

“It will be like any other race in Europe, I’ll be a lot more comfortable in the race director’s car I think.”

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