First it was Felicity Wilson-Haffenden who scored a gold medal for the Australian Cycling Team, the fastest junior in the women’s TT on Thursday. Then it was Oscar Chamberlain’s turn to stand atop the podium – first, ahead of Ben Wiggins, in the junior men’s race…
– By Kenny Pryde in Stirling (Photos: Stefano Sirotti)
Advance Australia Fair plays again
Oscar Chamberlain won the junior world time trial championship with a near perfect execution of his race strategy. The 22.8km course was essentially flat before the final one-kilometre kick up to the line and the trick was holding enough back not to die on the final steep cobbled climb up to Stirling castle.
It was good enough for the junior Australian champion to beat fancied Brit Ben Wiggins and push Germany’s Louis Leidart into third place.
At the finish the 18-year-old was laid-out by his effort and took a few minutes to sit up. The Netherlands-based teenager who was the runner up in the junior edition of Paris-Roubaix earlier this year was the first rider to get close to hotseat occupant Leidart, who had started almost an hour before Chamberlain rolled down the start ramp.
Leidart’s described that long wait as “the grimmest experience”. He had watched no fewer than 39 riders try and fail to improve his mark until Chamberlain bettered it by 34 seconds.
Although racing for the Chambery headquartered AG2R under-19 team, the rider from Canberra had based himself in the Limburg region of the Netherlands all year.
“The Australian team got together the week before we came over to Glasgow and raced the Nations Cup event in ‘my’ region of Holland, in Limburg. I won that race (the Watersley Junior challenge) which was good for morale.”
Chamberlain admitted that, at times, it had been mentally tough being based in Europe, but he knew what he was letting himself in for. “I had raced in France in 2022 quite a bit and AG2R offered me a slot for this year,” explained the ambitious youngster. “I thought it would be a good place to go to learn and they’re a well-organised team, I did a lot with them this year.”
As an 18-year-old world time trial champion who was also 10th in the brutal Glasgow junior road race (“Yeah, I was a bit disappointed with that, to be honest”), Chamberlain would appear to have a bright future as a Classics and time trial contender. His future is so bright, in fact, that he wouldn’t be drawn on his plans for 2024, batting the question away with a smile. It is, however, safe to say he’s got a decent team lined up.
Media duties completed, he was joined by his three sisters and mum and dad, hugging his sister but cannily insisting that his camera-toting dad get his rainbow stripes in the picture. Given that he’s moving up to the under-23 category in 2024, there won’t be too many other chances to show off his new prize.
Wiggins claims silver…
What can you say to anyone before the start of a race like this? What could (or would) Bradley Wiggins have said to his son Ben, riding for Team GB? The third-from-last rider off, young Wiggins had packed in the men’s junior road race when he became detached after being caught behind a crash. Rather than spank round a sketchy circuit he pulled in, a disappointed figure.
In truth, the Glasgow circuit wasn’t ideal for the rider who had already won the UCI Nations Cup stage race, the Trophée Centre Morbihan, earlier in Spring.
Clearly Wiggins isn’t in the team because of that surname and he was already looking forward to the junior world track championships where he’ll be riding the points race and Madison.
If he’d struggled earlier in the season with his ‘Son of Sir Wiggo’ label, he’s getting over it now. It was good to see his-fit looking father in Stirling too, keeping a low profile, not part of any team staff but clearly 100 percent behind his son.
For Australia, Will Holmes (who spent the 2023 season with a French team with a long history with Anglophone riders, La Pomme Marseille academy) was the second rider to start the time trial and he enjoyed some time in all three hot seats at the finish before slipping down the order, finally finishing 20th.
Josh Cranage, another Aussie based in Europe, managed 30th as the day warmed up. Given Cranage has spent the season with CC Chevigny in the Belgian Ardennes, the shape and feel of the Scottish roads would probably have been familiar for the 17-year-old.
In the end, however, the day, the hot seat, the jersey, the gold medal and the nice Tissot winner’s watch all belonged to Chamberlain. Given he had spent over AUD$4,000 getting to the UK, he might have considered it money well spent, an investment in his future.
– By Kenny Pryde