LOATHE as I am to give the Aussies another big-up after they have inflicted untold grief on our cricketers in recent months but watching those sun-filled pictures the Tour Down Under reminds us of the considerable role Australia has played in modern day cycling. In Britain there is rightly much pride in the contribution of British riders but it would be remiss not to pause for a moment and consider the Aussies. Damn them.

Trawling back through the years here was Phil Anderson, the 1978 Commonwealth Games Road Race winner who quickly turned his attention to the Tour de France and in 1981 he famously became the first rider from outside Europe to wear the yellow jersey, en route to a 10th place in GC. Anderson wore the maillot jaune for nine days the following year when he just missed out on a podium finish but took the young rider’s jersey.  During the height of his career he claimed another three top tens at the Tour and finished his career in style with two GC wins in the old Tour of Britain and another Commonwealth Gold, 16 years after the first, this time in the Team Time Trial.

Anderson won two Tour de France stages during his career and by my reckoning the Aussies can claim eight riders in total who have enjoyed that honour – Baden Cooke, Robbie McEwen, Brad McGee, Simon Gerrans, Baden Cooke, Stuart O’Grady and Neil Stephens.  Alas Adam Hansen cannot yet be added to that list but I’m appending him to the Aussie roll of honour anyway on account of his finishing all three Grand Tours in both 2012 and 2013. Bloody oath, he must have some ticker! And it should perhaps also be mentioned in passing that it was an Aussie, tough case Six Day racer Gary Wiggins, who sired Britain’s first ever Tour De France winner Sir Bradley.

Then there’s Cadel Evans, universally known as Cuddles for reasons that I damned if I can remember. When I first started covering the sport he was considered spikey and didn’t seem universally popular among the continental press shall we say but perhaps they were suffering from a limited acquaintance with professional Aussie sportsmen. To me he appeared hewn from a familiar stone and I loved his gritty 2011 Tour de France win, founded on his willingness to defend himself in the mountains and a very fine time-trial on the penultimate day. The nearly man finally delivered a cracking win, a triumph the sport believed in totally which was much needed at the time.

Meanwhile Orica-GreenEDGE arrived on the scene a year after Team Sky but adopt very much the same principle of providing the basis of a national ProTour team with no less than 12 of their roster for this season being Aussie nationals. Intriguingly two very talented young Poms – the multi-talented Yates twins Simon (below, winning on Haytor last September) and Adam – have infiltrated their ranks and it will be sweet indeed if they can start chalking up a few ‘British’ wins in the Aussie green. Go you beauties go!

It was the Aussies, damn them again, who first turned me onto Track Cycling as I answered a late call one night at the 2002 Commonwealth Games to get myself to the Manchester Velodrome and cover something called the Men’s 4km Team Pursuit.  

It was an Aussie v England final and I watched transfixed s Graeme Brown, Luke Roberts, Peter Dawson and Cav’s future lead out man Mark Renshaw (left) rode with perfect controlled power and precision throughout the 16 laps to dip under four minutes and break the world record in 3mins 59.583 secs.  I didn’t even have to look that time up, it has stayed with me ever since. Ever since then the Team Pursuit has been my favourite single sporting event bar none and watching the World and Olympics clashes between Australia and Great Britain a perennial pleasure.

Australia it was who initially pushed the boundaries of Track cycling in the ‘noughties’ with their use of sports science, specialised training camps and technology putting them ahead of the game and resulting in five gold medals at the Athens Olympics, their high water mark. Since then Great Britain have been top dogs and by some distance but you instinctively feel that come Rio 2016 Australia will again be the squad to beat. As with the Ashes cricket you just know that some stage the Aussies will come good.

And finally no mention of Aussie cycling would be quite complete without mention of the Sutton clan – brothers Gary and Shane and Gary’s son Chris. The brothers won all sorts of Commonwealth gold medals between them, Shane won the old Tour of Britain and then the duo found themselves as the respective head coaches of the Aussie and GB track squads at the 2012 Olympics, Gary in charge of the Cyclones as they like to be known and Shane taking charge of GB under the overall directorship of Sir Dave Brailsford.

Chris meanwhile was one of Team Sky’s first signings for their inaugural season of 2010 and indeed is still there doing his stuff at the Tour Down Under as I pen this. He also captured the opening stage of the 2009 Tour of Britain into York, as pictured right.

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I CAN’T help thinking there is a sitcom waiting to be written for Geraint Thomas when the double Olympic gold medal winner decides to get a “proper” job – hopefully some years down the line – and quits cycling. Apart from his Olympic heroics Thomas is best known for his Lion hearted bravery in adversity which is probably just as well given his frequent prangs and crashes.   What was it Chris Froome said when he heard Thomas has fractured his pelvis at the end of Stage One of the Tour de France last year? “Of course he will finish, he’s Welsh.” I’m thinking of printing T shirts to that effect and making a few bob at the Tour this year!  Anyway now to the growing Thomas myth we can add Geraint’s attempts to pop the question to long-time girlfriend Sara recently when he again found himself sprawled in a mess on the tarmac. To quote from the man himself: “I popped the question in Cardiff, at the bar where we first met. I meant to do it outside and bent down to pretend to do my shoelaces up, but she just kept on walking so I had to do it inside.”

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CYCLING is rightly a tad wary of “Comeback Kids” after the Armstrong ego trip ended in tears but it’s good to have Linus Gerdemann back in the pro ranks following a 17 month break after inexplicably failing to secure a contract at the end of the 2012 season. This is the Linus Gerdemann who won the mountainous Stage Seven of the 2007 Tour de France from Bourg-en-Bresse to Le Grand-Bornand in spectacular fashion and enjoyed a couple of days in yellow, a spell in the limelight that seemed to herald a notable career and the arrival of the clean, above suspicion, GC rider that Germany craved as Jan Ullrich became embroiled in the Puerto affair.

Above – Linus Gerdemann on his last appearance at The Tour of Britain in 2011

Gerderman rode for some of the biggest teams in the sport – CSC, T-Mobile, Columbia, Leopard Trek and RadioShack Nissan – in some of the biggest races but for whatever reason it never quite happened for him and gradually he appeared to lose his hunger. After a year out to smell the roses and re-evaluate his life however Gerdermann decided he isn’t quite ready to finish with cycling and, after being signed for the ambition South African team MTN Qhubeka he started his comeback last week with a fifth place in GC at the 12th La Tropicale Amissa Bongo, a seven day stage race in Gabon. Helping his old T-Mobile colleague Gerald Ciolek nurture some of the African talent at MTN Qhubeka could be just what the doctor ordered for such and intelligent and talented rider and who knows, at 31, there might just be time to fulfil some of yesteryear when anything and everything seemed possible. Watch this space.