Now that I have had a moment to reflect on this year’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour, I’ve realised that Calvin Watson and I have something in common. Sadly, Scottish DJ Calvin Harris doesn’t have hugs – or anything else for us! Neither of us are acceptable in the ‘80s – as neither of us were born during that great decade. Now whilst I’m not about to admit my age, I will confess to being somewhere between Stuart O’Grady and Simon Gerrans, which has, in turn, got me thinking about this year’s tour.
There are many elements that went toward making this race a fantastic spectacle. Moving the race to January is a great idea, even if it sadly has lost its official world tour status. The move to a New Year start and piggy-backing the Bay crits has opened the race to a whole new audience. It’s allowed spectators who normally wouldn’t see live cycling the chance to stand on the side of the road and watch the spectacle of a fast moving peloton rolling past. Perhaps a down side has been the incredible heat that the riders had to endure and that may have kept some away but on the whole this change in schedule has been a success. But I hear you asking yourself, ‘how does this relate to my original discussion of age?’ As always, I’m getting there, even if it is slowly.
What seems to have surprised many pundits is the way the young guns of Australian cycling not only took the race up to the more senior and experienced professionals competing for the national team, but how they literally made the race their own. To be honest, I’m not sure how surprising this is if you take the viewpoint that the real value and indeed role of the likes of O’Grady and Co in this year’s race wasn’t to show the young ones how it’s done, but to act as ‘mentors’ to our cycling future.
Now, at this point, please don’t be screaming at your computer and wording a carefully crafted reply suggesting that I am accusing our senior riders of not taking the race seriously. I am not at all suggesting this.
My point is this, that a field of mainly under 23 riders had four days of tutelage from some of Australia’s and New Zealand’s great riders. The experience of riding next to the likes of O’Grady, Gerrans, Henderson and Dean for four days is the kind of learning experience that cannot be purchased or replicated in any institute of sport. What was so fantastic about this year’s race was seeing some of our (and New Zealand’s) great champions giving back to the sport. This is something we talk of so much in this country but how often do we really see it? I can only imagine what an experience these young riders have had over the last four days. Meeting your idol is one thing, but having the chance to learn from them, even if they did not intentionally set out to act as mentors, cannot be underestimated.
Watson’s win is also a lesson in the power of actions speaking louder than words. Watson is not the only promising young athlete to not be picked for an Australian team or given an institute scholarship. I may be mistaken in this and I know you will correct me, but didn’t Simon Gerrans and Rachel Neylan get over looked for AIS scholarships? Please let me know if I’ve got my wires crossed, but my point is that whilst these scholarships and team selections are important to young athletes, nothing is more important than the runs you put on the board. Watson has let his legs do the talking and any disappointment at not being on the Australian team is hopefully squashed by yesterday’s victory.
The future of cycling is looking very rosy indeed. Many of the key players, old and young, in this year’s race were born either side of the ‘80s and whilst this may make some of us feel old, it only serves to remind us of the strength of cycling in our neck of the woods.
Now, what is it that I have in common with Calvin Watson?
Published on www.theroar.com.au 8/1/13