Selection for UniSA team: an interesting conundrum
After the nationals comes the Tour Down Under… and a chance for some locals to see how they perform at WorldTour level. That’s the theory at least but we wait to see if Cycling Australia’s plans can be fulfilled in accordance with the rules.
The nationals are over again for another year and the next focus of Australia’s so-called ‘Summer of Cycling’ is the opening round of the UCI WorldTour, the Santos Tour Down Under.
Some team selections for the TDU have already been announced and, going on what we saw in the national championship road race yesterday, there are good signs that Richie Porte is ready to try and defend his GC title. The BMC team boasts three former champions of the Tour Down Under – Porte, as well as Rohan Dennis and new recruit, but Australian cycling veteran, Simon Gerrans.
After the nationals, talk quickly turns to which riders will make selection for the hotly contested places in the ‘wildcard’ team sponsored by UniSA. This is traditionally a mixture of Australian riders who are not part of WorldTour teams; if they show their form in the early days of the year, they get an invite to participate in Australia’s biggest stage race.
Michael Freiberg (above) is the 2017 NRS winner but he’s not yet certain if he’ll get a chance to race the Tour Down Under.
Photo: Jean-Pierre Ronco
In 2018, some developments that Cycling Australia had hoped to initiated would see a little change in the dynamic of the UniSA team. The sport’s administrators are aiming to provide a ‘reward’ for excellence in the domestic National Road Series (NRS) by giving the winning team five places in the subsequent edition of the Tour Down Under.
That is, at least, the intention as announced last November after an “extensive review” of the NRS.
The reality, however, may be a little different. There are regulations that need to be adhered to and it involves ensuring that all riders who compete in WorldTour races are subjected to stringent doping controls. Cycling Australia was apparently reminded of this detail in March last year but, according to some closely associated with the NRS, it seems that the federation hasn’t managed this element correctly.
Roughly translated, the rules stipulate that riders should be subjected to the highest drug testing protocols in cycling for a minimum of six weeks. If they haven’t been, then sorry: no place for you in the WorldTour.
This leaves us in a quandary as we approach the announcement of the UniSA team for the TDU which starts on the weekend with a ‘warm-up’ criterium on the streets of Adelaide before the stage race proper sets off on Tuesday week.
All things going to plan, the Bennelong-SwissWellness team should be able to field five riders in next week’s Tour Down Under…
Photo: Jean-Pierre Ronco
Earlier today, RIDE spoke with Steve Price from Bennelong-SwissWellness about the team’s nationals campaign and other topics that came up during the racing last week.
We’ll present the full interview in the coming days but the topic of selection for the UniSA team did come up. His team did, after all, dominate the NRS last year; Michael Freiberg won the series title and the what was known as IsoWhey-SwissWellness (in 2017) won the team classification.
But Price isn’t yet certain of what will play out in the coming days.
The interview concluded as follows:
Question: We are coming up to the week of selection for the UniSA team at the Tour Down Under. From the obligations that Cycling Australia put on the table, you’ve got a few guys who are going to be representing… are you looking forward to that challenge?
Answer: “Ah, yes. We are.
“There’s a bit going on in the background and we’re not too sure how it’s going to play out but if we are at the Tour Down Under, we will be very happy to take on the challenge – and maybe do things a little bit differently to how they’ve been done before.
“We’re supposed to be there with all our own infrastructure and staff which will be good, and hopefully we get to choose the riders that we feel deserve a place in that team.
“There’s a bit going on in that space and hopefully that all gets resolved pretty quickly and we can get on with doing everything that we’ve got planned for TDU.”
Price did not specify exactly what the issues were but we could assume it has something to do with the UCI regulations for WorldTour participation.
RIDE is looking into the matter and will continue to report any developments.
Talks are said to be ongoing and Cycling Australia is doing all it can to facilitate the desired outcome but we wait to see what the result will be. It’s a watch-this-space scenario and we’ll see what develops in the next couple of days.
– By Rob Arnold
Update: The regulation in question is one that was amended for implementation after 1 January 2018 (above).
Amendments have been made to the WorldTour regulations for the start of the 2018 season. And herein lies the issue in relation to riders vying for a start in the UniSA team for the Santos Tour Down Under.
We wait to see if a solution can be found.