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Posted on: 22nd September 2015

The Politics of Selection

The men’s road race is looming. The World professional Cycling Road Race that is. The amateurs now race age group via qualifiers at Gran Fondo’s.

I will watch with as much interest as anyone else. The course is set and there is always much discussion about its attributes and the type of rider it would favour.

There is even more discussion about the candidates, and the likely outcome. The opinions have been printed and I have discussed the probable outcomes as well. How will the Aussies play their cards, I am often too prepared to say what I think and this is not necessarily well received.

In reality we have a team that has some holes in it and is a essentially a showcase of the OGE team rather than of Australian talent with only 3 non OGE riders selected. 

That said the team looks to be built for Gerrans whereas Michael Matthews has far more potential if not for this year but for the years to come to have a team designed to support him. He is on form and ready while Simon has had a year that a cyclist would wish to forget.

There should never be media calls for support from individual riders who have the merit and potential to win. This shows a lack of unity and is a poor (if true) reflection of the selection process.

Things have changed and I don’t want to be embroiled in the politics of the selection process although over the years I suspect I could have done a far better job.

When I wanted to ride the worlds I would often call the federation and regularly be greeted with the quote, “we are not sending a team to the road worlds as our hopes lie with the track”. For most of my career after I turned pro any Aussie rider in Europe could pretty much ride in the World professional championships.

My first worlds was 78, ten days after I rode the Commonwealth Games which were in Edmonton Canada. This was clearly another era, the process, any rider in Europe could notify the Australian Amateur Cycling Federation requesting to be entered in the worlds.

A few weeks prior leading up the games in Canada, I netted a new orange coloured Colnago in Mexico by winning the final stage at the Red Zinger. I was on form and with my winning Green, yellow and white jersey and victorious Orange Colnago under my arm, I left the fanfare of the games village to head Europe where I had entered the World Amateur Championship.

Amateur sport was promoted as the ideal and there was a world championship to be won so to start my campaign I flew to Brussels. Travelling from the airport to Ghent on the train, the paupers route and I stayed at a guest- house on the side of the city. I did a couple of Kermesses to sharpen my form prior heading to Nuremberg for the Amateur worlds.

Despite Australia’s deep history in road events, the Cycling Federation at that time clearly spent their resources on Track Cycling. The depth of talent meant there was a far greater chance of a higher medal tally given the number of events. For my race I was given the address of the race headquarters, get there yourself. When I arrived I discovered the location was for the track championships in Munich. 

To the road champs were 600km away near the city of Koblenz. 

With little time to spare, ever dwindling resources ( this was all self funded)and very frustrated, I travelled through the night to the other side of Germany by train, then bus and finally a cab for the road titles. It was pretty daunting, on my own, preparing my race food and drink to be ready for the next day.

The200k race was to be held on the Nurburgring auto-race circuit and a young world beater I was away in an early break. Way over my depth, I had no idea of what I was doing and spent my energy early, working hard with a group of other newbees only to be totally smashed by the field once they had warmed up. I didn’t finish, climbing off with 30km to go and totally spent and probably last man on the road. Despite the reality check, it was a huge learning opportunity, the first I never had a DNF after that and the experience helped lay some paving stones for the future.

The following year I joined the ACBB, a Parisian cycling club and I still remember the humiliation of being introduced as the rider who attacked on the first lap of the world road race the previous year only to realise I had earned a great deal of respect before I had even begun my career.

Written by Phil Anderson


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