Sunday, January 12, 2014

Thoughts on AUS/NZ Nationals

There are always things that can be talked about until the cows come home but you know in the end that the inevitable will happen. The politician promising change will be elected even though he is more of the same. Kids still have to eat their vegetables. Unless the hand of god came down and wrecked him out himself, Caleb Ewan was inevitably going to win the Australian U23 RR. I could have talked about how Jordan Kerby, Robert Power, Robert-Jon McCarthy and Jack Haig but it wouldn't have mattered. Ewan proved his climbing skills last autumn when he finished 4th in the Florence Worlds to many people, including me, who thought it would be too tough for him. Seeing as he was the fastest sprinter and had the talent to stick with any rider in the race, it was next to impossible for someone other than him to win.

1. Caleb Ewan is an animal

Nothing new. We knew this since he was about 16 years old but it is so impressive to see him put out results like a young Peter Sagan. Ewan won the U23 criterium on Thursday after weathering all of the attacks and dusting everyone in the sprint. Ewan came into the U23 RR as a hot favorite but after an early breakaway group was reeled back in, Ewan and a few others attacked with a couple laps left. Ewan was cramping on the last summit of the climb but held on to the lead group and was able to take out the final sprint by a couple of bike lengths. He should line up at the Tour Down Under with UniSA so we shall how he copes with the pro peloton and he is able to shove his way into the bunch kicks. 

2. Robert Power is a bundle of talent

While Ewan took the sprint in the end of the U23 road race, young Robert Power was flying in just behind him and flew past as they crossed the line. Just 18 years old, Power is starting his maiden U23 season off early and showing the talent that got him some big results as a junior. 

3. Woah...Harry Carpenter

So Harry Carpenter gets the most improved medal for the day. The South Australian mechanical engineering student came off a good season with the Euride team and had multiple top 10 GC results on the Australian NRS Circuit, some good time trials and even a ride (and finish) at the Tour of Qinghai Lake with the Australian National Team. Coming into the Australian Nationals, he was off of my radar but he did a good job of putting himself on it. Kitted out on Merida TT bike with a Lightweight disc wheel, Carpenter smashed his time trial and by the time he was done, he smashed Sam Spokes time and was the provisional leader. It wasn't until Jordan Kerby came through that he was unseated and it was by an agonizing .02 seconds; just a hair's breadth from the green and gold bands. The next day, Carpenter attacked the U23 criterium and was solo throughout the majority of the event. While he was caught in the end, he won the points jersey for the race. Then just two days later, Carpenter made the selection in the U23 RR and was putting in digs in the final kilometers before finishing an impressive 4th. Not exactly sure of his plans for 2014 yet but his impressive Bay Crits and Nationals run might get him onto the UniSA team for the Tour Down Under in a bit over a week's time. Keep an eye on him.

4. Fraser Gough isn't just Westley's cousin anymore

The last couple of seasons, Fraser Gough has been trying to cut his teeth in Europe in hope of getting into the European peloton, something his cousin Westley hasn't been able to do. Westley Gough was apart of the New Zealand bronze medal team pursuit from the Beijing and London Olympics but past his track accolades, he is still trying to find his place in the road cycling world. His cousin Fraser has ridden for Rock Werchter and the Royal Antwerp Cycling Club and had a stagiaire place with Doltcini-Flanders at the end of the year in 2013. Fraser really started 2014 well by winning the U23 New Zealand TT ahead of James Oram, who is a stud against the clock, and Dion Smith. Seems like Gough is still trying to lock down a ride for 2014 and this will help that search.

5. Hayden McCormick

Good ride by the Lotto-Belisol U23 rider at the NZ U23 RR, where he outsprinted Dion Smith and James Oram to take the win. I thought Smith would win the sprint in that group but McCormick has been on the track this winter and won the UCI Invercargill Scratch Race ahead of stalwarts Shane Archbold and King Lok Cheung so his sprint legs were pretty sharp.

6. It is January. If guys aren't on their A-game right now, then there is no reason to freak out.

Seriously. The European season for U23s doesn't really start in earnest for another three months so if guys are peaking now and don't take a big rest before then? They'll probably be fatigued and won't do much. I'm not too worried about Campbell Flakemore, Dylan Kennett or Mitchell Lovelock-Fay not being on top form because when it boils down, it is just nationals and there is a long season ahead. Aussie or NZ Nationals can be important indicators but they aren't the end all be all.

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