Down Under Digest: Caleb’s coming home

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

Matt de Neef
by Matt de Neef 18.10.2023 Photography by
Peter English
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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.

A couple of quick reminders before we get stuck in: if you’ve got a story about Aussie or Kiwi cycling – and not just road racing – I want to hear about it! You can get in touch via email. And if you aren’t already receiving the DUD via email, please sign up. That way you’ll never miss an edition. Just hit the dirty great big button below to get yourself all signed up (and why not sign up for our other great newsletters while you’re at it?)

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.


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:

? Results of note ?

✂️ Snippets ✂️

? 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.

Five cyclists stand at Everest Base Camp, with the mountain behind them.

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 … ?

Thanks for reading! This and every 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 so! Just click the link in the top right of the page to get started.

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