Rhys Foreman: If I Were A Team UniSA-Australia 2015 Selector…

Peloton Cafe || 2014 Australian National Road Championships - Steele von Hoff
Peloton Cafe || 2014 Australian National Road Championships – Steele von Hoff (image copyright Con Chronis)
As the focus of the Australian summer turns towards the Tour Down Under, and we all eagerly anticipate the selection of the Team UniSA-Australia squad, National Road Series aficionado Rhys Foreman offers his opinion on he would select.? By Rhys Foreman: Well, the Road Nationals have been completed for another year. And I couldn’t be happier about the results. Steele von Hoff, Peta Mullens, Heinrich Haussler; they are all extremely nice people whose road careers have had their setbacks. The green and gold jerseys are a wonderful result for all of them, and hopefully will lead to greater opportunities on the road. The attention of the Australian cycling fan now turns to the Tour Down Under though. One of the biggest questions for me is the composition of the UniSA-Australia team. Previous riders have included Allan Davis, Michael Rogers, Pat Jonker, and more recently, Rohan Dennis and Caleb Ewan. The opportunities are there for riders to get results and be noticed. The team is usually geared towards young riders gaining exposure to the WorldTour level, but in the case of Davis in 2008 (who finished second overall after entering the last stage looking for time bonuses), also for a rider without a WorldTour ride to remind everyone that they can contend at the highest level. So, who would I select, and why? First name on my team list is Steele von Hoff. Fresh from winning the national criterium championship, and riding this year for British squad NFTO; this is a guy who can handle his bike, beat riders in form in a power sprint, and hold his own on short climbs (having led the bunch home in the road race). Plus, there is the added value of WorldTour experience (the Garmin set-up), which means that he can hold his own against the top guys, and will probably help the younger guys on their learning curve. The second thing I would do would be to call Jack Bobridge and offer him a ride. He may turn it down due to his impending Hour Record attempt and any preparation specific to that; but I would make the call nonetheless. Bobridge is another rider in form, who finished third in the time trial at Nationals, and was a big player in the road race; also with WorldTour experience. Added to all of that, he will gain phenomenal support from the home crowd, and would most likely love racing in his home city again. Those are my two big names, and I’ll leave space for 5 National Road Series riders. First of them is definitely Jack Haig. The Victorian has signed a pre-contract with Orica-Greenedge, and will join them in 2016. As the defending Young Rider classification winner from 2014, he should warrant selection on that basis alone. Added to that though, Haig has plenty of results at NRS level, and despite not placing highly, rode well as a marked man in the national Under-23 road race. A good climber and (judging by his 2014 TDU result) a savvy tactician, he has to be a good chance to repeat his Young Rider victory. Neil Van Der Ploeg is another name that was on the UniSA roster last year, and I would invite him back this year. A good lead-out man or a good sprinter in his own right, as third in the national road race indicates. Van der Ploeg didn’t pick up a result at the TDU last year, but with a year’s extra experience and coming into form nicely, I would certainly include him in my team. Next on my team sheet would be Miles Scotson, based mostly on his National Championships performance. A track national and world champion, he is a rider who dominated both the road race and time trial at under-23 level last week. A strong rider, and another who will love riding in front of home crowds. I would task him with being present in breakaways, with a view to the King of the Mountains title, if such an opportunity presented itself. Otherwise, his week would be comparing himself? to the best, and developing as a cyclist. It would be a big step, but I believe this is a young rider who can make that jump. The last two riders (tasked with attacking, attacking, and attacking some more) are Ben Hill and Cameron Bayly. These two lit up the national criterium championships with their daring breakaway that came within half a lap of succeeding. Hill attacked, Bayly bridged, and no lesser name than Michael Rogers eventually came across to help them. Hill is coming back from a doping suspension that ended in October, after a mix-up regarding a product given to him by a team-mate; and has started his return to racing very aggressively, taking two stages on his way to 8th overall at the Tour of Southland late in 2014, and being omni-present in the Bay Cycling Classic races, as well as the national criterium championship. Bayly is (another!) local South Aussie who has raced at Continental level, and would relish the opportunity to ride hard against the best in the world in front of home fans. This may come as a surprise selection; because he skipped the Bay Cycling Classic and the national time trial, and didn’t show himself in the national road race, and therefore hasn’t been in public consciousness. However, 14th place, climbing with the Evans and Porte group – along with his attack in the crits – shows that he is a rider who is coming into form nicely, and is my dark horse to infiltrate breaks. I believe this team is a combination of youth and experience, and full of riders who will be hungry to show that they can compete with the best. This group would be present in the breaks (Scotson, Hill and Bayly), contesting the sprints (van der Ploeg and von Hoff), contending the Young Rider classification (Haig, maybe Scotson), and potentially challenging for the General Classification (Bobridge). Added to their varied skills, this is a group of riders who have been both leaders and workhorses for their teams, and therefore should be happy to ride for each other, which in turn should form a happy, cohesive, aggressive and under-rated team. The epitome of the traditional character of the UniSA-Australia team.

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