Cycling Australia has announced that Nick Schultz will replace the ill Richie Porte on Sunday for the elite men’s road race at the world championships in Innsbruck.
On 23 August, Nick Schultz was revealed as one of Mitchelton-Scott’s new signings. The 24-year-old who had raced with the Spanish-registered Caja Rural-Seguros RGA team continues his progression in pro cycling. And today he has been named as the rider to fill the spot vacated by Richie Porte in the Australian cycling team for the world championship road race next Sunday.
Porte was originally listed as leader for the final event at the worlds, but he was ruled out on Saturday because of a respiratory illness.
Schultz recently finished 75th overall at the Vuelta a España, eight places higher up the generation classification rankings than Porte who doing his comeback race after fracturing a collarbone at the Tour de France. The young rider’s best result in a stage of his second Grand Tour (both raced during his two-year stint at Caja Rural) was 18th, in the 195km stage from Linares to Almaden, won by Alejandro Valverde.
Turning 24 earlier this month, Schultz has made a steady progression through the pro ranks and his team for next season is optimistic about what he brings to the line-up.
“Nick is an exciting prospect and he is at an age where he will continue to develop for some years to come,” said Mitchelton-Scott manager, Matt White in August, “so it is really exciting to have him on our team moving forward.”
Over the weekend, RIDE Media contacted numerous people associated with the Australian Cycling Team to try and find out who was in contention for the spot vacated by Porte but varying time zones and the need to find a suitable late replacement meant that it took a few days to make the decision. Ultimately Schultz got the nod from Simon Jones and Brad McGee and we wish the team all the best for what will be a challenging few days as riders switch from trade team priorities to national team duties.
Overnight, Michael Matthews claimed the first medal at the championships for an Australian rider when he joined his Sunweb team-mates for the TTT; the 2017 world champions claimed silver, 18 seconds behind Quickstep. Earlier on Saturday, Canyon-SRAM won the women’s title in the team time trial contested on day one of the championships.
Although this is the fourth medal for Matthews at the worlds in the past four years – silver in the road race (2015), gold in the TTT (2017), and bronze in the road race last year – we understand he was not contacted in relation to filling the position in the Australian team for next Sunday’s road race.
Despite being in Innsbruck for the TTT, Matthews will return to his base in Monaco to watch the rest of the championships from afar with his wife and young daughter.
When questioned if Matthews was asked about his availability for the road race at the 2018 championships, Cycling Australia declined to comment.
Matthews, who celebrates his 28th birthday on Wednesday, recently won two one-day WorldTour races in succession, demonstrating that he is in good form at the end of the season but he was overlooked as a possible replacement for Porte.
Another rider who could have been considered for the formidable Australian line-up in the elite men’s race is Ben O’Connor. He had a good start to the season and, only yesterday, finished 10th in one of the traditional pre-worlds races in Italy, the Trofeo Matteotti (won by Davide Ballerini, with Italian riders filling the top five places in that 195km race).
Ultimately, it’s Schultz who will join the Australian camp in Austria in the coming days and we can expect to see a strong showing from the riders in green and gold.
There is often speculation over who made the selection and who didn’t but, in the end, the decision is made by Simon Jones and his cohort at Cycling Australia.
“Nick is coming into the team in a specific climbing support role,” said Jones in the release from Cycling Australia issued on Monday morning (Australian time). “He has just completed the Vuelta and he has the form and desire to contribute to the team strategy. I want to thank Nick for taking up this late opportunity”.
The route for the elite men’s road race this year is a tough one with plenty of climbing and we can expect to see strong performances by the likes of Simon Clarke (a stage winner at the Vuelta) and Jack Haig (who finished 19th on GC at the most recent Grand Tour).
“It is an honour to be selected to represent Australia at the world championships,” Schultz told Cycling Australia. “I will give my maximum to deliver whatever is required. I would also like to wish Richie a speedy recovery and thank Cycling Australia for their faith in selecting me.”
– By Rob Arnold