Down Under Digest: The top Aussie cyclist of 2023?

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

Matt de Neef
by Matt de Neef 15.11.2023 Photography by
Mark Gleeson
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G’day and welcome to another edition of the Down Under Digest, your weekly round-up of all things Aussie and Kiwi cycling. A couple of quick reminders before we get started.

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Alright, let’s get crackin’.

? Youngsters shine at the Tour of Tasmania ?

Australia’s National Road Series (NRS) is all done for another year with the Tour of Tasmania coming to a close over the weekend. Here’s a breakdown of how it went:

Men’s race

Women’s race

? Dirty Warrny, filthy faces ?

The second edition of the Dirty Warrny gravel race was held in southern Victoria over the weekend and it looked like a whole heap of ‘fun’. Bloody hard, and very long, but fun. In the words of third-place-finisher and road pro Sarah Gigante:

It was a brutal 9 hours of racing, filled with lots of climbing and wind, but the great company in my bunch paired with enough Aussie snacks to feed an army kept me going and made it (mostly!) fun from start to finish. I say ‘mostly’, because there was one moment of realisation 4 hours in when I realised I was not even halfway…!”

The Dirty Warnny is the off-road companion event to the legendary Melbourne to Warrnambool road race, and tackles a bunch of beautiful gravel roads between Geelong to Warrnambool for the gravel race’s 246 km main event. Escape member Matilda Raynolds won the women’s race ahead of Courtney Sherwell and Gigante, while Grace Brown took out the 140 km women’s event. Tim Cutler won the 246 km men’s race and Jack Aitken won the 140 km men’s event. Full results here.

Side note: I’m a big fan of Sarah Gigante keeping the mud on her face for her podium visit, and for having fun with that fact.

?? The 10 Aussies racing Cyclocross Worlds ??

CX Worlds aren’t happening until February next year but AusCycling is getting in early, announcing the riders that will make the long trip to Tabor, Czech Republic.

Miranda Griffiths and Fiona Morris will line up in the elite women’s race, both of them on debut. Garry Milburn will be Australia’s only rider in the elite men’s race in what will be his fifth CX Worlds. Here’s a shot of him racing Worlds back in 2016:

Sophie Sutton will race the U23 women’s event, with Max Hobson and Finn Kane taking part in the U23 men’s race. Four riders will represent Australia in the U19 men’s race: Sam Northey, Campbell McConnell, Finlay McRobbie, and Liam Cuthbertson.

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? Who was the Aussie cyclist of the year? ?

It’s that time of year when we start looking back on the season that was and celebrating the riders who delivered the most memorable moments. AusCycling is doing that too – their Sport Performance Awards are just around the corner which means the governing body is calling for nominations for the best Aussie cyclists of 2023.

Awards will be handed out for each category of cycling (including E-racing), but the big prize is the Oppy Medal for AusCycling Cyclist of the year, celebrating “the year’s most outstanding all-round rider.”

Who’s going to win it this year? To my eye, there’s no obvious winner like there sometimes is – think Jai Hindley last year after winning the Giro, or Mat Hayman after winning Paris-Roubaix in 2016. In fact, I think you could argue that, in most disciplines, Australia has underperformed on the world stage throughout 2023, compared to your average year.

That said, here are a couple riders that spring to mind for the top gong in Australian cycling:

Who’s your pick? If you want to have your say, you can submit your nomination at the AusCycling website.

✂️ Snippets ✂️

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? Big Things Down Under ?

In this week’s edition of Big Things Down Under we head down to the small Victorian town of Glenrowan, known to Melbourne cyclists as the place to stop for a cheeky Macca’s cheeseburger when you’re on your way to the High Country. Normal people are most familiar with Glenrowan because it’s where the notorious-yet-somehow-celebrated bushranger (read: convicted police-killer) Ned Kelly made his final stand before being captured by police in 1880.

As you’d expect, there’s a Big Ned Kelly statue in Glenrowan, which is where Escape Member Mark Gleeson and his bike have posted up in the image below.

(Fun fact: there are at least three Big Ned Kellys in Victoria, according to the seminal Big Things Wikipedia page. Another fun fact: there’s a Ned Kelly Animatronic Museum in Glenrowan which Escape’s own Iain Treloar describes as “simultaneously the greatest and shittiest thing I have ever seen”. High praise indeed.)

Thanks for sending through your pic, Mark!

Have you got one of Australia’s Big Things close to you? Or 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! Hit us up here.

❤️ And finally … ❤️

To round things out this week, a couple of videos that caught my attention. First, Ride Media founder Rob Arnold with a scathing review of some of Sydney’s cycling infrastructure. The video peaks spectacularly (at 9:08) with Rob screaming the following to camera: “Sydney, where the bike lanes are empty … because no one knows where the f*ck they are or where the f*ck they go!”

Rob will be the first to tell you he’s a guy with a lot of Feelings, and in this video he doesn’t mince his words about how he feels the cyclists of Sydney are being treated. Attracting particular heat from Rob are bike paths that spit you out onto major roads as if to say “You’re on your own buddy, work it out!”, plus overzealous “Cyclist Dismount” signs (which Rob delights in disobeying).

And finally, something entirely different: a video of Aussie track beast Matt Richardson casually doing a blackflip while holding a weighted barbell. No biggie.

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