Down Under Digest #33: It’s Giro time

Keep up to date on all things Aussie and Kiwi cycling with our weekly round-up.

Matt de Neef
by Matt de Neef 02.05.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Hello and welcome to another edition of the Down Under Digest, your weekly round-up of all things Aussie and Kiwi cycling. While the first ‘Grand Tour’ of the women’s season is already underway in Spain – the Vuelta Femenina – the men’s peloton is about to begin its first ‘Grandy’ of the year: the Giro d’Italia. As you’ll read below, we’ve got a few Aussies and Kiwis due to take the start, with several of them showing great form in the lead-up.

In today’s newsletter we’ve also got some racing news from closer to home plus even a touch of BMX Racing. Let’s get right to it.

🤞 Plappy’s promising prep 🤞

Aussie champ Luke Plapp (Jayco AlUla) is about to start his debut Giro d’Italia, and based on his outing at the Tour de Romandie last week, he’s in some good form.

On stage 2, with a break up the road on the final climb, Plapp put in a strong surge to bridge across from the peloton and ended up with third on the day as a result. That moved him up to third overall as well.

The rest of Plapp’s visit to Switzerland didn’t go quite as well – his 27th in the stage 3 ITT probably wasn’t quite what he wanted, and after losing 13 minutes on the uphill finish to stage 4, Plapp withdrew from the race on the cold and rainy final stage. Maybe not the ideal conclusion to the tour, but the 23-year-old will surely go into the Giro with confidence after his strong ride on stage 2.

According to Jayco AlUla, Plapp will be “looking to make his mark in the two individual time trials” at the Italian Grand Tour. Presumably he’ll also be riding in support of GC leader Eddie Dunbar, and Aussie sprint hope Caleb Ewan. It’ll be interesting to see whether Plapp is given more freedom to chase other opportunities for himself too.

🇮🇹 Giro-bound 🇮🇹

Which other Aussies and Kiwis can we look forward to watching at the Giro? The full startlist isn’t confirmed, but here are the riders that are confirmed to be on the startline in Venaria Reale on Saturday:

And here are a few riders who aren’t confirmed yet, but who we expect to be there:

Stay posted to Escape for a full stage-by-stage breakdown of the race, plus your guide to all the riders to watch, coming soon. And if you want to take your Giro viewing to the next level, please consider joining our Fantasy Competition. These are always a whole lot of fun (especially when you’re beating your mates!)

Got a story tip? Something readers should know about? I’d love to hear from you! Please reach out via email.

🏆 BNO wins G2I 🏆

Back to Australia now for a look at the latest round of the men’s National Road Series (NRS): the one-day classic, Grafton to Inverell.

A three-rider break – Ryan Schilt (CCACHE-Par Küp), Brendon Green (Cycling Development Foundation), and Tynan Shannon – led for much of Saturday’s race, including up and over the infamous Gibraltar Range climb. Schilt was the last rider caught, just 5 km from the finish of the 228 km race, as a peloton of around 20 got ready for the sprint.

In the end it was Schilt’s teammate Bentley Niquet-Olden who got the chocolates, beating Ben Carman (St. George) and Oli Stenning (Blackshaw) in the sprint. CCACHE-Par Küp had been racing for Tour de Brisbane winner Graeme Frislie but with Frislie not feeling so good on the final climb, the team pivoted to supporting Tour de Taiwan stage winner, Niquet-Olden.

💎 BridgeLane dominates the Sapphire Tour 💎

Over at the Sapphire Tour – the two-day women’s NRS race that’s part of the Grafton to Inverell carnival – it was a weekend of dominance from BridgeLane.

In the opening stage, a 109 km road race into Inverell, the main break of five had no fewer than four BridgeLane riders in it: Katelyn Nicholson, Lillee Pollock, Keely Bennett, and Talia Appelton. Savannah Coupland (Cycling Development Foundation) was the only non-BridgeLane rider able to make it up the road.

An attack from Nicholson with 8 km to go saw the new Oceania champ get clear and win solo by 1:26 … with Pollock, Bennett, and Appleton the next three across the line to lock in a BridgeLane 1-2-3-4 (and six in the top seven). The team went 1-2-3-4 in last year’s one-day version of the race too.

This quote from Nicholson on how it all unfolded seems like a lovely piece of understatement: “When the final break went away, we [BridgeLane] were well-represented.”

In stage 2, a 42 km crit around Lake Inverell, 19-year-old Belinda Bailey (Hydraplay Femme) won the sprint ahead of Odette Lynch (Butterfields Racing), with Lillee Pollock in third overall. As you’d expect, Nicholson held on to win the race overall, with all six of the BridgeLane riders that finished the tour making it into the top seven on GC. Not bad.

The final edition of the NRS takes a long break now before racing resumes at the Tour of Gippsland on August 16-18.

💪 Aussies dominate the BMX World Cup 💪

We’re mostly focused on road, gravel, and MTB here at Escape but given it’s an Olympic year, and given what Aussie BMX riders managed this season, it’s worth a quick detour into the world of BMX Racing.

The six-round BMX Racing World Cup wrapped up in Tulsa, USA this past weekend and, well, let’s just say Australia had plenty to be proud of after the final two rounds. When the series was complete, Aussie racers ended up on top of the rankings in all four categories:

Sakakibara ended up winning four of the six World Cup rounds (including both this past weekend), to easily defend her title from last year. Kennedy took second in both of the Tulsa rounds (behind reigning Olympic champ Niek Kimmann) and when series leader Cédric Butti didn’t make the final on Sunday, Kennedy’s runner-up finish was enough to clinch the series overall.

In the U23 men, Aussies and Kiwis had a great weekend. In Saturday’s round 5, Jordan Callum (Australia) took the win ahead of Tasman Wakelin (NZ), Josh Jolly (Australia), and Jesse Asmus (Australia). Moran led Asmus and Callum to an Aussie 1-2-3 in Sunday’s final round.

Meanwhile, Taya Rufus’ win on Saturday (her fourth of the year) and seventh place on Sunday (after a crash) were enough to secure the overall title.

And so Australia will head to the Paris Olympics later this year in a great position. Before that though: the BMX Racing World Championships in Rock Hill USA, from May 16-18.

✂️ Snippets ✂️

❤️ And finally … ❤️

You’ve probably come across Aussie comedian Jimmy Rees in the past. A former kids entertainer, Rees rose to widespread popularity during The COVID Years, posting short videos on social platforms in which he lampooned the way various governments handled the pandemic.

He’s tackled all sorts of subjects over the years, usually looking at the absurdities of various aspects of daily life, and he’s had cyclists in his sights before. But his latest video, “A Letter From Cyclists” gave me a good chuckle. There are some good, knowing references in here.

Thanks to Escape member Peter Gugger for the recommendation!

Until next time …

Thanks for reading! This and every other Down Under Digest was made possible by our wonderful members here at Escape Collective. If you’ve already signed up, thank you. If you haven’t yet, but you’d like to, please do. Just click the link in the top right of the page to get started.

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