Almanac Cycling: A Rio Pursuit

Tim Decker leading Glenn O'Shea, Jack Bobridge and Alex Edmondson

Tim Decker leading Glenn O’Shea, Jack Bobridge and Alex Edmondson

An Olympic year creates a unique intensity within sporting organisations and support staff, all their plans and strategies must be executed perfectly. For the athlete, years of personal and physical sacrifices, countless hours of training and competition filter into a few of days of competition. Aside from the nations’ expectations, nothing compares to the expectations of the athlete themselves.

At the London 2012 Olympics, Cycling Australia was represented in the Men’s 4000m Team Pursuit by Jack Bobridge, Rohan Dennis, Michael Hepburn and Glenn O’Shea with Alex Edmondson selected as fifth rider. As good a squad these riders were, nothing could prevent Team GB winning the Gold medal with a World and Olympic record in qualification and again in the final against Australia.

As O’Shea summarised the Olympic experience “Our objective was to win Gold and we came second and so it wasn’t a success.”

After the 2012 Olympics, the squad went in separate directions. Dennis and Bobridge joined Garmin and Hepburn joined the newly formed ORICA-GreenEDGE squad. Glenn O’Shea and Alex Edmondson continued with the Track squad, working with new members of the Team Pursuit to win World Titles in 2013 and 2014 and Commonwealth Games Gold medal in 2014.

Throughout the following years, the lure of the Olympic Gold grew stronger, it has become personal, call it unfinished business.

Jack Bobridge has an impressive palmares, World Champion in Team Pursuit and Under 23 Road Time Trial, Australian Road Champion, World Record holder for the Individual Pursuit, and Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist, rejoined the Track squad in 2014.

Alex Edmondson has become one of Australia’s best Track riders with multiple Australian Championships, World Championships in Team and Individual Pursuit and Commonwealth Gold and Silver, Alex has signed on to join ORICA-GreenEDGE at the completion of Rio 2016.

Glenn O’Shea is a World Champion in Team Pursuit and Omnium, Olympic Silver medallist and Commonwealth Games Gold. His achievements on the Track are too numerous to mention and was awarded 2015 Male Track Cyclist of the Year award at CA’s Oppy awards. Glenn recently signed with newly formed One Pro Cycling.

And then there is Michael Hepburn.

A member of Pro team ORICA-GreenEDGE winning the Team Trial stages in 2014 and 2015 Giro d’Italia, and successful Track and Road credentials, Michael has chosen to return to the track in 2016 for the Rio Olympics.

“With Rio on the horizon the track certainly does come back in the picture,” Hepburn said. “With the support of Cycling Australia and ORICA-GreenEDGE my goal is to make the team pursuit team ?so we can see what is possible to achieve.”

The depth in Australian Cycling is impressive.

Competing for a place on the Olympic Team are a further group of cyclists; Miles Scotson, Luke Davison and Mitch Mulhern all with World Championship Titles, Callum Scotson, Tirian McManus, Dan Fitter, Rohan Wight, Jackson Law, Sam Welsford and Alex Porter all having won Junior World Championships and Senior World Cup races and then there is Scott Sunderland, former World Champion sprint cyclist who has transferred to the endurance programme with impressive results including a win in this year’s Melbourne To Warrnambool Classic.

With the 2016 Rio Olympics being held in August, competition for a spot in the Team Pursuit squad is heating up with only a few opportunities left to impress selectors. In the first weekend of December is a World Cup event in Cambridge New Zealand (Dec 4-6) followed by another World Cup event in Hong Kong in late January, prior to National Track Championships. Then there is selection for the World Championships to be held in London (March 2-6).

For the upcoming World Cup in NZ, Australia has selected Jack Bobridge, Luke Davison, Alex Edmondson, Michael Hepburn, Mitchell Mulhern and Glenn O’Shea in the endurance squad with perhaps Glenn O’Shea riding the Omnium events. New Zealand is the defending World Champion in the Men’s Team Pursuit and will test the Australian squad. With Michael Hepburn only recently re-joining the Track Squad, this event will be interesting to see how the combinations work.

Final selection for the Olympic Team will depend on a number of factors, team balance, speed, power, endurance performance of the cyclists. Every rider wants to be part an Olympic campaign, every rider wants to win Gold and every one of them has the absolute determination to make the required sacrifices to gain that extra one hundredth of a second.

I have been following this squad for the past three years and was fortunate to attend a recent training camp in Adelaide as a guest of CA. Sitting in their team meeting I noticed a distinct change in the senior cyclists, especially those from London 2012.

For them, 2016 is not just another Olympic campaign; this will be their last opportunity for Olympic Gold, the one remaining title to complete their impressive cycling palmares.

For them it has become personal, it is as much about redemption as it is dealing with unfinished business.

It’s time to step it up.

About David Parker

A keen observer of all things sport and a Swans tragic, David likes to dabble in sporting documentaries including the Max Bailey doco for Fox Footy. David is currently filming a documentary on the Australian Cycling Men's Team Pursuit squad as they prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Comments

  1. Is this team a little like a football club getting closer to finals, with competition for ‘spots’ heating up?
    With only four spots available, surely there is a bit of internal rivalry happening?

  2. You would think. Not sure about internal rivalry, because you’re not sure whose spot you are competing for. Cycling is unique, while the pursuit is a team event, the cyclists that will get selected are those that can pull the most laps at the front, those that can ride the bigger gear and those who bring it home strongly. This tussle for spots brings out their competitive nature to continually improve and perform while achieving the team targets. I remember what Alistair Clarkson once said about Hawthorn, “In the pursuit of excellence, rewards may follow “.

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