Australian teenager Hamish Mackenzie was the youngest rider on the under-23 time trial podium and, unlike champion Lorenzo Milesi and runner-up Alec Saegert, not part of a WorldTour team… yet.
– By Kenny Pryde in Stirling (Photos: Stefano Sirotti)
After race starts in Edinburgh and Glasgow it was Stirling’s turn to play host to some rainbow jersey distribution as the men’s and women’s under-23 time trial courses of the 2023 cycling world championships finished at Stirling castle, close to Bannockburn, the site where Scotland last beat England at anything significant.
Actually, there was one Scot on the 79 rider startlist, Peebles-born Callum Thornley riding in a Team GB skinsuit. He is yet another youngster who found his way onto the road after years of racing the trails on a mountain bike; the 19-year-old finished 14th and afterwards confessed he had found the experience of watching the world’s best riders on ‘his’ roads quite surreal, a “once in a lifetime experience”.
The honour of being first rider to start the 36.2km time trial on Wednesday fell to an Australian with a name considerably more Scottish than Thornley – Alastair Mackellar. The Queenslander was the best of the early starters by a long way, covering the course in an impressive time of 44:42 and he occupied the hot seat for almost 30 minutes.
“I gave it as good a nudge as I could, but the course didn’t really suit me,” said Mackellar, adding, “I reckon it’ll suit bigger guys more. There are a couple of roller-type hills but you take them at speed, so they didn’t have much of an impact.”
Mackellar’s prediction about the body type required for the Stirlingshire course proved correct and, in the end, he was bumped down the rankings several places and ultimately shunted off the podium by one of his team-mates.
After Mackellar the next rider in green and gold off the ramp was Tasmania’s silver medallist from the junior TT in Wollongong last September, Hamish Mckenzie, the 18-year-old from Launceston.
Mckenzie averaged 49.532km/h in his first appearance in the under-23 ranks at the worlds, topping the time sheets with his 43:52. “I only had a 1x setup and on the final climb to the line I ran out of legs a bit.
“I knew I was going well and I was getting time checks telling me I was the quickest, so I tried to get as aero as I could, tried to recover as much as possible and hold back a little for the final climb.”
McKenzie’s strategy and effort were good enough for him to win the bronze medal in 2023. At just 18, he was the youngest on the podium, beaten by older, more experienced riders. Specifically, beaten by Lotto Dstny pro Alec Sagaert of Belgium and new champion, the 21-year-old Italian Lorenzo Milesi who is part of Team DSM-firmenich.
The new world champion had come ‘fresh’ from the Tour of Poland and, before that, an altitude training camp because he is soon setting off from Scotland to contest the Vuelta a España – his first Grand Tour, where he has his eye on the opening stage, a 14.8km team time trial in Barcelona (26 August).
“I wasn’t really thinking about this as a special target,” said the Italian, “but my form was good after Poland and the altitude training camp.”
For his part, the rest of Mckenzie’s season (after the Glasgow under-23 road race) will be spent racing as a stagiaire with Jayco-AlUla. He declared himself “excited” by the prospect.
“The team had spoken to me about it at the start of the year and we’ve been in touch since last year after the worlds. (DS) Matt White has been in touch quite a bit through the year and I think I’ll be doing a few one-day races in Belgium.”
He turns 19 next month and we wait to see if his apprenticeship with the Australian team in 2023 turns into a permanent contract for the latest of a long list of Aussies who have been on the under-23 TT world championships podium.
The last Aussie to start was Brady Gilmore, who has been part of the ARA-Skip Capital team since last year. His preparation for the time trial was similar to Mckenzie’s in as much as the pair of them share a house near – but not in – Monaco. The 22-year-old from Perth who wasn’t even sure if he was going to start, having come down with a short-term, fast-acting ‘gastric flu’ which left him chucking up two days prior to the race start.
“I woke up this morning and felt fine, so decided to start. After the recce I didn’t really think it was the course for me, I would have liked a few more hills, it was really flat.”
Overall though, Gilmore seemed reasonably content, although it seems he is in Scotland with more of an eye on Saturday’s 168.4km road race. Having watched the elite men’s race, Gilmore reckons those one and two minute city climbs will suit him much better than the TT course in Stirling. And if Gilmore wants punchy climbs, there are plenty waiting for him in Glasgow.
So, with plenty of time for Mackellar in the hot seat, a bronze medal for McKenzie and a reassured Gilmore, it wasn’t a bad day for the Australian trio. Next up, a decidedly lumpier road race…
– By Kenny Pryde