Lucas Hamilton | Pressing On

“At the moment I’m up in my place in Andorra. Just doing an altitude camp, so it’s pretty cold here; looks like there was a fresh coat of snow overnight... This morning it's mint, blue skies and really nice, and it’s been nice for probably two or three weeks now. But then all it takes is one day, and it changes and it’s just filthy for a month.”

As far as Europe goes, it’s the start of the cycling season, with most altitude camps focusing on base miles. But having raced in Australia for a month and a half already, you could almost call this Lucas Hamilton’s mid-season break.

“Basically, I had since Herald Sun Tour off racing; which was always planned, just to sort of step back a bit and start building again. It has been pretty good actually; you come back to Europe, get your feet back on the ground, and then sort of start working towards your goals for the rest of the season”

He’s been in Andorra for a week now, and he’s scheduled to stay two more, before jumping back into racing with an Italian race, the Coppi e Bartali

“I’ve got a place up here anyway, it’s not like being away. By the time your two and a half, three weeks is up though, you’re pretty keen to get back down to some better weather”

Bartali kicks off act II of Hamilton's season, his second in the World Tour with Mitchelton-SCOTT. Act I was pretty good, as he turned heads with a succession of impressive performances. A strong day at the National Road Race Championships produced a top 10 result, while he finished top 10 on GC at the Herald Sun tour having been given a protected role there.

He really drew attention with a sparkling ride at the Tour Down Under though; a key cog in the Mitchelton-SCOTT machinery that delivered Daryl Impey to the top step of the podium, he received huge wraps from us here at SSS, the team, and Impey himself.

Photo: Riley Hart

Photo: Riley Hart

After a Stagiaire role with Mitchelton-SCOTT in late 2017, Hamilton had grabbed a taste of the big time, but 2018 was still a year spent on the learning curve.

“There weren’t any huge life-changing lessons, it was just lots of little things. Just being around the older guys, day-to-day racing you learn a lot, in terms of how to race and how to race for the win. I think you become a lot calmer as a rider being around those guys; they’ve done it for however many years, and they know how to control themselves and pace themselves.”

Darryl Impey, Michael Albasini, Sam Bewley and Mat Hayman (who’s now part of management) are amongst the names he recounts as having taken him under their wing.

“They’re really good because they want to help, and that’s what makes it really easy. Most of the time they’re the leaders of the races you go to, but they’re also happy to really help you”

The team too has aided his development, giving him a wide range of racing, allowing him to experience the full scope of pro racing in his first season.

“Even TDU this year was one of those [learning experiences], it was a pretty high-pressure race for us, and it’s all about learning. I think that’s why they put us in in the first place, just to try and learn, and develop in those races where there’s a fair bit of pressure to win. Not necessarily from the team, but just being an Aussie team in the only Aussie World Tour stage race.”

Consistent performances and his obvious potential were amongst the reasons the team gave him a ticket to the Tour Down Under. The team’s faith in him is obvious, as the only Aussie team at Australia’s only World Tour event, it’s safe to assume that there aren’t many places more coveted on Mitchelton-SCOTT than the seven starters at TDU... It’s also safe to assume he had little trouble getting up for the race.

“It’s always one of your favourite parts of the year, racing the Aussie summer; your family and friends get to come watch, and you know most of the roads… From the team’s perspective, we had a great summer too. It’s always good when the team’s going well and you’re racing on home soil, so it was a really enjoyable two months”

The professional cycling season seems to get longer and longer every year, and with Australians placing so much emphasis on this part of the year, there’s always the worry of overdoing it early and being cooked by the time the biggest Europeans races roll around. There’s a growing number of riders who don’t come back here in summer with that likely playing a role in the decision. Jack Haig, Simon Clarke and Michael Matthews are amongst our biggest names but didn’t race any of the Aussie Summer.

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But conversely, there’s no fun in playing catch up all year long either, especially if you’re an Australian who’s flown all the way out here, only to endure a dog of summer in front of your family and friends. So where’s the line?

“As an Aussie, my personal choice is that I love going into Aus Summer… not in top form - I only had a month to prepare, because I finished racing in late October and didn’t start riding until November 20th – but I always find if you get there in January and you’re in pretty good shape, it’s a lot easier to stay on top of it all.

“Where I am now, with training camps and so on, I find if you’ve got a good base, you only have to flick the switch and train a little bit harder for a short period of time, then you’ll be where you want to be… Then obviously the momentum of doing well at races is always good heading into the season.”

According to Hamilton, that summer work ethic comes from a two-year period in the Australian U23 Program. The first, dogged by problems in the opening months, saw him struggling for form until late in the year. The second season was much smoother in the early months; as a result, he was needed to be all year long.

“I think for me, those two contrasting experiences showed me at the moment, it’s better to be in better shape coming into the Euro season.”

So that’s the perfect start to this year then, and its set to be a busy one as more leadership opportunities come by. The big goal though is to start at a Grand Tour, the obvious next step in his evolution as a cyclist. In case you hadn’t noticed though, Grand Tour spots are hard to come by on the Mitchelton-SCOTT squad, they’ve got a pretty good team right now. Hence if he’s picked, it’s another sign of the team’s ever-growing faith in him.

“I don’t think there will be a Grandy this year which we go to that we don’t want to win, and think we can win, because we’ve got the guys to do it. To get a Grand Tour spot will be good for the confidence, just knowing that the team thinks I can do a job.

“It’s a tough as it gets doing a Grandy, so ill really be looking forward to that.”