Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of the Down Under Digest, your guide to all things Aussie and Kiwi cycling. There’s a bit going on this week, despite the fact that the last WorldTour races of the year are now complete and the off-season is well and truly upon us.
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Alright, let’s get to it.
😅 Caleb’s coming home 😅
First up, a big thanks to Jayco-AlUla for confirming Caleb Ewan’s signing right after last week’s DUD went out. Big fan of that timing. Not to worry though – there’s still plenty to dig into this week.
I particularly enjoyed the (probably unintentional) backhander directed Ewan’s way by Lotto Dstny CEO Stéphane Heulot in the team’s farewell post. In saying “We are happy that Caleb can continue his career elsewhere”, Heulot probably meant “we are happy for Ewan”, but given the tension between the pair this year, it’s hard not to read his comment as “we’re glad he’s finally off our books”.
I speculated last week that having Dylan Groenewegen and Ewan on the same team could make things a little spicy next year. Shortly after that, the team announced it had extended Groenewegen’s contract through 2025.
Jayco-AlUla manager Matt White has said that “Dylan will not compete with Caleb for a spot”, that “they both run their own program, with their own train”, and that “it can work out well for both, if one rides in Paris-Nice and the other in Tirreno-Adriatico.” Which is all well and good but what happens if both riders are racing well in the lead-up to the Tour de France? Who gets the nod? Bringing both sprinters seems unlikely.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m stoked for Ewan – he’s apparently very relieved to have the whole Lotto Dstny mess behind him – and seeing him race in GreenEdge colours just feels … right. All I’m saying is, it’s easy to play happy families before the season begins, but don’t be surprised to see things get a little trickier as 2024 rolls on …
Speaking of 2024, Ewan is set to begin his season at the Santos Tour Down Under, where he’s won nine stages previously.
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🍿 Chloe Hosking wants back in 🍿
On the subject of Aussie sprinters and the Tour Down Under, remember how Chloe Hosking was part of the disastrous Zaaf program and ended up without a team in 2023? Well, the Canberran doesn’t seem to be done with bike racing yet – she’s thrown her hat in the ring to be considered for the Australian national team at January’s Tour Down Under.
It’s not clear whether Hosking is likely to get a spot or not – she told Escape that AusCycling “didn’t give me a spot [this year] after my team fell apart” – but we’ll likely find out in late November or early December, according to AusCycling’s director of pathways, Donna Rae-Szalinski.
As for what this means for Hosking’s racing plans more generally in 2024, she didn’t say. It seems unlikely she’s got a pro contract lined up if she’s angling for the national team at TDU, but you never know – not all big teams race TDU.
Oh, and for those wondering about the bike brand Hosking’s starting up with her husband Jack Lindsay (which was due to launch mid-2023), that’s been delayed. Apparently the goal is to launch the Hosking Bikes road and gravel bikes together, rather than one at a time.
🤔 TFF CRMWLL LNCHS RADL GRVL 🤔
Sorry about that headline. Can we all just agree that the trend of pulling letters out of the names of things is a little bit silly?
OK, now that I’ve got that out of my system: Tiff Cromwell and her partner Valtteri Bottas (a 10-time F1 Grand Prix winner for those out of the loop) are launching a new gravel event, called RADL GRVL, to run during the Santos Tour Down Under. (In case you have the same question I did, RADL GRVL is pronounced “Raddle Gravel”, according to the lovely Sinead in TDU PR.)
The announcement video for the event is quite something. Take a look. (Trigger warning: Valtteri Bottas in budgie smugglers).
RADL GRVL is the third race in a collection of races that began with SBT GRVL in Steamboat Springs, USA, and which expanded this year with the debut of FNLD GRVL in Lahti, Finland (Bottas’s homeland).
The 2024 RADL GRVL (I have to look up the spelling every time) will be raced on a 130 km gravel course around South Australia’s McLaren Vale wine country, and will feature a $10,000 pro prize purse. There are just 250 spots available for the debut edition and tickets go on sale on October 25. VRY XCTNG.
✍🏻 Where are they off to next year? ✍🏻
While many pro riders are currently busy sunning themselves on the beach, team press officers are busy writing press releases about new riders and contract extensions for 2024. Amid all these announcements – see some in the Snippets section below – it’s worth keeping track of who doesn’t have a confirmed contract for next year. And there are a bunch of Aussies and Kiwis on the list.
Now, if a rider appears below, it doesn’t mean they haven’t got a contract for next year – perhaps the announcement just hasn’t been made yet (watch for news to drop an hour after this newsletter goes out). Either way, it’s worth keeping these riders in mind over the coming weeks and months:
- Gravel queen Tiff Cromwell’s contract with Canyon-SRAM seems to be up at year’s end. Is she going full-time gravel in 2024?
- Cromwell’s Canyon-SRAM teammate Sarah Roy is also out of contract. She told Escape a while back that she’s focusing on the track more in the lead-up to the Paris Olympics, but that she’ll be racing on the road too. Where? That’s TBC.
- The Jayco-AlUla trio of Alex Manly, Georgia Baker, and Ruby Roseman-Gannon are also contracted until the end of this year. Manly and Baker will very much have Olympic track racing on their minds in 2024, so how that affects their road ambitions remains to be seen.
- Former Aussie road champ Nicole Frain is leaving Parkhotel Valkenburg. She tells Escape that she can’t yet say what 2024 will hold but that she “should still be racing – I just have a few more things to organise.”
- Michael Hepburn has done 12 seasons in a row now with GreenEdge but it’s not clear whether he’ll be there again in 2024.
- Robert Stannard’s contract at Alpecin-Deceuninck runs out this year.
- Forty-year-old triathlete Cam Wurf has been with Ineos Grenadiers for four years but it’s not confirmed whether that relationship will continue next year.
- Over at Israel-Premier Tech, Taj Jones and Seb Berwick are out of contract. Berwick, especially, must be of interest to teams, given his recent success in China.
- Over in New Zealand, Henrietta Christie has just finished her two-year deal with Human Powered Health. She’s posted on Instagram about starting her prep for next year, but it’s not clear who she’s with.
- After earning a one-year deal with UAE Team Emirates via the MyWhoosh online platform, Michael Vink’s contract is up.
- What’s Tom Scully up to in 2024 after a bunch of years with Jonathan Vaughters-led teams? Watch this space.
- Campbell Stewart’s two-year deal at Jayco-AlUla is finished. A recent win at the CRO Race should help his future prospects, but track will surely be a focus in 2024.
- Now 38, Jack Bauer has spent this year with Q36.5, but his plans in 2024 aren’t clear.
- And then there are six Kiwi riders on Bolton Equities Black Spoke: Ollie Jones, James Oram, Regan Gough, Aaron Gate, Luke Mudgway, and Ryan Christensen. Will those riders stay on as the team drops down to Continental level in 2024?
🏅 Results of note 🏅
- After a stomach bug ruined his chances of winning the Tour of Turkey (2.1) overall, Jay Vine bounced back with a stage win on the penultimate stage and took out the KOM competition.
- Aussie Georgia Baker (Jayco-AlUla) was second in the opening-stage sprint at the Tour of Chongming Island (2.WWT) in China.
- Nineteen-year-old Aussie Will Eaves (ARA-Skip Capital) continues his promising form in Asia, finishing second overall at the Trans-Himalaya Cycling Race (UCI 2.2) after third on the opening stage. It was Eaves’s first time racing at altitude (above 4,000 metres, anyone?), which he described to Escape as follows: “It’s pretty different. You don’t get as much draft as you would normally sitting in a bunch and you hardly have to put out any watts to go fast. But I have noticed a slight drop in my power being up here. I personally seem to be handling the altitude fine but there are lots of riders that aren’t.”
- Saya Sakakibara continues to shine in the world of BMX, taking another victory in Argentina over the weekend to win the BMX Racing World Cup overall. The 24-year-old won five of the 10 rounds this season.
- And in other BMX news, Australia’s Olympic gold medalist Logan Martin won the final round of the BMX Freestyle World Cup and clinched the overall standings (with a lazy three wins from four rounds). His final-winning run was ace:
✂️ Snippets ✂️
- Australia’s U19 ITT world champ, Felicity Wilson-Haffenden has signed with Lidl-Trek through 2026. She is the fifth 18-year-old to join the American team next year.
- In other news out of Lidl-Trek, über-domestique Lauretta Hanson just announced that her contract has been extended for another two years.
- With his racing career now over, Shane Archbold will become a sports director at Bora-Hansgrohe. Escape’s own Jonny Long caught up with ‘The Flying Mullet’ at Archbold’s final race, the Tour of Guangxi.
- Speaking of post-retirement gigs, Archbold’s fellow Kiwi Georgia Williams is launching a coaching service. Her teammate and pal Alex Manly wrote a lovely post about Williams’ new endeavour.
- Aussie domestic-level multi-disciplinary racer Tilly Field (Roxsolt Liv SRAM) has signed with Movistar’s eSports and gravel racing squad for 2024. “I’ve had my eye on this goal since last year, and this is it,” she wrote on Instagram. “I’m exactly where I want to be.”
- $500,000 will be poured into Aussie cycling as part of a plan to ensure Straya is the number-one Commonwealth Games nation “in terms of gold medals won, overall medals won, total number of medallists and the number of sports winning medals.”
📅 Up next 📅
It’s been a while between drinks, but the penultimate round of Australia’s National Road Series (NRS) is about to get underway in Queensland. Cycle Sunshine Coast will feature five stages of racing over four days, for men and women, starting this Thursday.
Our man Ryan Miu at AusCycling has put together a nice preview of the race. AusCycling will also have daily highlights on its YouTube channel, and we’ll have a wrap-up here in next week’s edition of the DUD.
🍌 Big Things Down Under 🍌
In this week’s edition of Big Things Down Under, we follow Owen Bentley to Exmouth, Western Australia as he visits the Big Prawn. This ode to the local prawning industry apparently stands seven metres tall and was built in 2004 before getting some renovations in 2020.
Thanks Owen for sending in your photo!
And in other Big Things news, the Big Potato in Sassafras, Tasmania recently took a tumble. First a truck backed into the sculpture, weakening it, and then some strong winds blew ‘Kenny the Kennebec’ over. Thankfully, the spud is currently in for repairs and will be out doing its thing again soon. (Big thanks to Rob McGlinn for the tip-off!)
Have you got one of Australia’s Big Things close to you? Or are you travelling past one? We’d love to see a photo of your bike parked up against it! Bonus points if you can snap it in landscape mode – perfect for the feature image up top of this newsletter …
🚲 And finally … 🚲
Let’s wrap up today with a couple of things you should definitely check out. First: a terrific photo-led story on Escape about Stuart O’Grady’s 50th birthday cycling adventure to Mt. Everest Base Camp, featuring fellow Aussie former pros Matt Goss and Matt Wilson. Great photos, incredible location, inspiring adventure – plenty to love here.
And finally, a shout-out to whoever’s running the MitoQ-NZ Cycling Project Instagram account. The men’s Continental team is about to race the Tour of Southland in New Zealand and the team is building up to the race with a series of amazing Insta posts. Here’s an excerpt from one:
“Pundits have described this iconic race as a week in heaven. Situated in New Zealand’s primary frost-producing region, the Tour of Southland is guaranteed to build character.
“As close to corporal punishment as possible whilst still being legal, this epic race features the following forgotten wonders of the world: Bluff Hill, the Remarkables, Orepuki Coast, and of course those diagonal train tracks coming into Thornbury – if they weren’t inanimate objects those train tracks would have a criminal record!”
The team is also posting about its riders that will do the race, and the first such post is also hilarious:
In case you’re wondering, Williamson is just 34.
🙏 Until next time … 🙏
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