The top five moments in Australian pro cycling – VeloNews.com
In recognition of the Tour Down Under’s cancelation, we have features, interviews, photo galleries, and other stories to celebrate Australian cycling as part of “Aussie Week.”
It’s Aussie Week, so there’s no better way to celebrate Australian pro cycling than to remember some of its greatest moments.
Fred Dreier, Andrew Hood, and Jim Cotton have put their heads together to bring you their list of the top five moments in Australian pro cycling.
Cadel Evans becomes the first Australian Tour de France champion
Evans became the first Aussie to win the Tour de France in 2011 after a tight, yo-yoing battle with Fränk and Andy Schleck. Going into the stage 20 time trial, Evans, then 34-years-old, was nearly one minute down on brother Andy but easily overturned the deficit through the 43-kilometer test to clinch the title in Grenoble.
“Miguel Indurain in 1991 planted a seed in my head that I wouldn’t mind riding that race one day if I was capable of it,” Evans said as he stood on the podium. “Here I am today with the yellow jersey, Tina Arena singing our national anthem on the Champs-Élysées today. It’s going to take a little while to realize.”
Also a winner of the 2009 world championships, Evans’ Tour victory elevated him to become a national sporting hero. Evans remains an ambassador for the sport in his country and established the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in 2015. Both the men’s and women’s road races are now WorldTour status and are set to return in 2022.
Anna Meares strikes gold at the London Olympics
Meares beat red-hot home favorite and longtime rival Victoria Pendleton in the London Olympic track sprint final in 2012 to move into Australian cycling lore. Meares beat Pendleton in the best-of-three final after the Brit was relegated from the first race for straying from her sprint lane.
“Victoria’s such a hard-fought opponent and she’s dominated the sport for so long,” Meares said. “It’s been such a difficult challenge and to be able to win the Olympic title for me, it’s so special. I’ve tried so much and worked so hard for a long period of time and I’ve asked a lot of people around me to do the same so it feels like this is a just reward.”
Meares scored a total of six Olympic medals across four appearances at the Games, closing out her career after taking bronze at the Keirin in Rio. Having suffered a career-threatening neck fracture and lost her long-time coach to Motor Neurone Disease, Meares’ career will be remembered for a lot of things, but London will live longest in the memory.
Phil Anderson becomes first non-European to wear yellow at the Tour de France
Phil Anderson became the first non-European to wear the yellow jersey of the Tour de France during his one-day spell leading the race in 1981.
Anderson was something of a trailblazer for Australian cycling, moving to Europe at a time when racers Down Under had next-to-no information about life in France, Belgium, and Italy.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, there was so little cycling culture in Australia,” Anderson told VeloNews in 2011. “I had no preconceived ideas. I knew it would be hard, and expected the worse. I got over there and there were 250 riders in a one-day race, while in Australia there were probably not even 250 riders in the whole country. The difference was huge. Some riders were not prepared and got sent home.”
Some 12 months later, Anderson went several steps further than his breakout ride in 1981. The London-born Aussie wore the yellow jersey for eight days in 1982, winning a stage and securing the white jersey of best young rider at the Tour.
Amanda Spratt takes her Tour Down Under hat trick
Spratt secured her slot in the history books of Aussie pro cycling when she took her third-consecutive Santos Tour Down Under title for Mitchelton-Scott in 2019.
Home fans had plenty to cheer about as Spratt topped an all-Australian GC podium after fellow Aussie Chloe Hosking had won the final stage sprint in Adelaide.
“This race is so special,” Spratt said after the race. “It’s a home race, we’re an Australian team so it’s really special. Mum and dad are here and I’ve got people from the Blue Mountains here as well.”
Though Spratt lost her stranglehold on the Tour Down Under when American rider Ruth Winder took the title in 2020, her record at the race along with two podium finishes at the world championships more-than cements her place as the leading light of the Australian contingent in the Women’s WorldTour.
Mathew Hayman wins Paris-Roubaix after months on the indoor trainer
Hayman stole the show at the 2016 Paris-Roubaix.
The Aussie was on no one’s list of favorites ahead of the race as all eyes turned toward Tom Boonen’s effort to take his fifth win on the pavé.
Having broken his arm in a crash at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad just six weeks before Roubaix, Hayman rigged up a ladder to hold his arm as he put in endless hours on the indoor trainer through March and arrived at the start line fresh and free of pressure. The Mitchelton-Scott man got himself into the decisive breakaway of the day and went on to pip Boonen in the velodrome sprint in what is one of the most memorable victories in recent pro cycling history.
“There’s no other race I’d rather win,” Hayman told VeloNews last year. “Maybe a world title, but if I was forced to choose, I’d still choose Paris-Roubaix. I had ridden it 17 times, and there’s no race that’s made me cry more as a grown man. To be forever linked as one of the winners is something I am so proud of. There are so many symbols of that race — the velodrome, the showers, the rock. It’s Roubaix, man.”
Honorable mention: Robbie McEwen
With 12 stage wins each at the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Tour Down Under, it would be remiss to not give McEwen a mention. However, the Brisbane-born fast man won so many races it’s just too tough to single out one particular victory.
“It’s been fun,” McEwen said on retiring. “That’s what it’s always been about for me. It started as a hobby. And I learned some important things early — it’s not about the energy you use, it’s the energy you save. I’ve been fortunate, and I’m thankful that I got to make my hobby into a good career and a success.”