With five days to go until the start of the 110th Tour de France (1-23 July 2023), teams are finalising their selection of eight riders. So far, a record-equalling tally of 12 Australians have been named as part of the peloton of 176.
#TDF2023 – Australian starters (Photos: Stefano Sirotti)
The Australian representation at the 2023 Tour de France is expected to be significant with 12 riders already named as part of team selections. This tally includes three former stage winners: Ben O’Connor, Caleb Ewan and Simon Clarke.
Australia’s first Giro d’Italia champion, Jai Hindley, will also be part of the action in July as leader of the Bora-Hansgrohe team.
Most of the 22 teams contesting the TDF next month have announced their selection of eight riders and the biggest Australian representation is at Team DSM-Firmenich, which includes four Aussies – ie. half of the Dutch team’s Tour line-up.
Although there may still be some changes to the final selection, the 12 Australians who have been named as starters are as follows (in alphabetical order):
- Simon Clarke (VIC) Israel-Premier Tech
- Matt Dinham (NSW) Team DSM-Firmenich
- Luke Durbridge (WA) Jayco-AlUla
- Alex Edmondson (SA) Team DSM-Firmenich
- Caleb Ewan (NSW) Lotto-Dstny
- Jack Haig (VIC) Bahrain Victorious
- Chris Hamilton (VIC) Team DSM-Firmenich
- Chris Harper (SA) Jayco-AlUla
- Jai Hindley (WA) Bora-Hansgrohe
- Ben O’Connor (WA) AG2R Citröen Team
- Nick Schultz (QLD) Israel-Premier Tech
- Sam Welsford (WA) Team DSM-Firmenich
Five Australians to debut in TDF
Of the 12 Australians expected to be at the start in Bilbao on Saturday, five will be racing the Tour for the first time: Dinham, Edmondson, Harper, Hindley and Welsford.
This year’s TDF is the 12th time that an Australian-registered team has been part of the race, with Jayco-AlUla naming two Aussies, Durbridge and Harper, in its line-up of eight riders.
When team staff are also taken into account the number of Australians on Tour this year will be significant with a host of Aussies employed as directeurs sportif and consultants. It remains to be seen exactly who is part of the entourage but it was announced last week that regular contributor to SBS’s TDF coverage, Mark Renshaw, will be joining Astana-Qazaqstan for the Tour in the hope that he can help guide Mark Cavendish to a record-breaking number of Tour stage wins.
Allan Peiper, one of the true pioneers of Australian cycling, will be back on Tour as an advisor for Jayco-AlUla in a role that was formalised in May.
Peiper contested five Tours de France as a rider between 1984 and 1992 and in recent years he has enjoyed considerable success as a member of staff in a variety of teams including Davitamon Lotto, HTC-Colombia, Garmin-Barracuda, BMC Racing and, most recently, UAE Team Emirates.
When Tadej Pogacar won his first Tour title in 2020, Peiper was one of the key tacticians for the Slovenian but illness meant it wasn’t always possible for him to continue doing his job with the UAE-registered team. He continued working with Pogacar et al while also undergoing treatment for cancer which he now believes is behind him.
Jayco-AlUla selects 2 Aussie riders
In 2023, Allan Peiper will hope to put his years of experience to use as the Jayco-AlUla team targets both stage wins and the general classification with the likes of Dylan Groenewegen – the Dutch sprinter who won stage three last year – and former Vuelta a España champion Simon Yates.
There remains a strong Australian influence at Jayco-AlUla but the team has named only two Aussie riders in this TDF line-up: Durbridge and Harper.
It is Harper’s first season with the Australian team after three years racing with Jumbo-Visma, the team of reigning TDF and Giro d’Italia champions Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic.
In La Vuelta of 2022 last September Harper showed his class while working as a domestique, finishing 33rd on GC.
Hindley: leader at Bora-Hansgrohe
On a route that favours the climbers, Bora-Hansgrohe has named Jai Hindley as the designated leader and the German-registered team believes the 27-year-old can challenge for a place on the podium. The full team selection is yet to be finalised.
Hindley finished fourth overall in the recent Critérium du Dauphiné, only 20 seconds shy of a podium place. “I’m really proud of how we worked as a team,” he said of that result.
“Looking at the Tour de France,” he continued, “I am where I wanted to be at the moment, with still a few weeks to go. I’m heading back to an altitude camp before I take a few days of rest at home ahead of the Grand Départ in Bilbao.”
Another Australian to lead a team in this year’s Tour is fourth-place finisher from 2021, Ben O’Connor. It will be the third start for the 27-year-old who won stage nine in horrendous conditions a couple of years ago, putting him in contention for a podium finish… but ultimately he finished his debut Tour fourth on GC, 10:02 behind Pogacar.
O’Connor has been injured in the opening stages of the Tour both times he’s started; last year he succumbed to the pain of a torn muscle and stopped the race after stage nine. A few months later he lined up for the Vuelta a España and finished eighth on GC, collecting three top-10 stage placings along the way.
Last week, Israel-Premier Tech confirmed the selection of two Australians on the roster of eight. The winner of the cobbled stage last year, Simon Clarke, made the cut along with last year’s TDF debutant Nick Schultz who joined the team in the off-season.
Schultz raced the 2022 Tour with the Australian BikeExhange-Jayco team, almost winning a stage in the mountains after a close battle with Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) at Megève.
The Israeli-registered team has not called on the services of one of their star recruits, four-time TDF champion Chris Froome, but it’s confident that it will be able to feature in the action this July.
“It was a tough decision to select our Tour de France team,” said the team’s GM, Kjell Carlström, “but we feel we selected eight riders best suited to fulfilling our performance objectives…
“We carefully looked at the necessary roles to fill when it comes to hunting for stage wins and chose our eight riders accordingly. The team is versatile and balanced and the guys can be impacting the race in almost any stage throughout the race.”
Haig: support for Landa
The latest inclusion of an Australian for this year’s Tour is Jack Haig who was named overnight as one of the eight riders from Bahrain Victorious. In 2021 and 2022 he was listed as team leader but misfortune and crashes meant he was never able to showcase his talents.
The 29-year-old who finished third in the Vuelta of 2021 will be part of a team that has suffered considerably of late following the death of their Swiss rider Gino Mäder during the Tour de Suisse. Bahrain Victorious will be racing to honour the 26-year-old who passed away because of injuries sustained in a crash during the race.
Ewan: sprinting for stage wins
Caleb Ewan returns to the Tour for his fifth start in as many years. In his debut back in 2019, he won three stages – including the final one in Paris – and finished second in the points classification (behind Peter Sagan). The 28-year-old sprinter is another Australian who has been given leadership status and although wins have been hard to come by in 2023, Lotto-Dstny believes he has the speed and strength to succeed in July.
“Caleb has already won five stages in the Tour de France and wants to add one or more in the coming edition,” said sports director Kurt van de Wouwer when the team announced its line-up last week.
“The past two years, he has had his share of bad luck at the Tour and also the past months haven’t been going perfectly but he still remains one of the fastest riders of the bunch. He is our biggest chance to take a stage win. That is why we have surrounded him really well with Jasper De Buyst, who has shown his excellent shape the past weeks and Jacopo Guarnieri as important element in the sprint train.”
If things go according to plan, the selection of 12 Australians on teams contesting the 2023 TDF matches the record number of Aussie starts from 2012 (when the peloton included: Jonathan Cantwell, Baden Cooke, Cadel Evans, Simon Gerrans, Matt Goss, Adam Hansen, Brett Lancaster, Matt Lloyd, Stuart O’Grady, Richie Porte, Mark Renshaw, and Michael Rogers).
The Grand Départ is only days away and Australian sport fans will face some late nights – and early mornings – as they follow the action over the three weeks of the race. Be sure to get your copy of the Official Tour de France Guide published by RIDE Media before the race begins for a comprehensive preview; the 212-page magazine is your ideal TV viewing companion with team lists, route information and all you need to know about the world’s biggest bike race.
– By Rob Arnold