In recognition and celebration of the 100th anniversary of Don Kirkham and Iddo 'Snowy' Munro becoming the first Australians to ride the Tour de France, Cycling Australia will name a nine-rider 'team of the century' later this month at the Jayco Australian Cyclist of the Year Awards.
In the wake of Kirkham and Munro's exploits, Sir Hubert Opperman rode the Tour in 1928 and 1931, followed by Russell Mockridge and John Beasley Snr riding as part of a Luxembourg team in the 1950s, Don Allan in the 1970s and Phil Anderson in the 1980s who became the first non-European to wear the yellow jersey.
Since Anderson's successes at the Tour which included the best young rider jersey in 1982, two stage wins and fifth overall on two occasions, five other Australians have worn the yellow jersey as the new millennium ushered in a 'golden era' of cycling characterised by Robbie McEwen's 12 stage wins and three green jerseys, Baden Cooke's green jersey win and Cadel Evans becoming the first Australian to win the overall in 2011.
In total, 50 Australians have ridden the Tour de France with six wearing the yellow jersey and nine winning stages. The Australian Orica-GreenEdge team also won the team time trial at the 2013 edition of the race.
Riders will be selected for designated roles in the team which consist of:
-Two riders for the general classification
-Two key domestiques to support the general classification riders
-Two leadout men for the sprinter
-One all rounder
-One team captain
Peter Bartels, the Chair of the selection committee, explained the biggest challenge in choosing the nine riders will be comparing generations.
"The style of racing from Opperman's period to now is so different and there was far less opportunity for many of our pioneers," Bartels said. "It's so hard to measure the quality of a rider like Russell Mockridge, who was arguably the best of his generation, but we sadly didn't get to see his best.
"Unfortunately, with just nine spots on a Tour de France team, there'll be world-class riders, who have done wonderful things for Australian cycling, who will miss out."
Former cyclists who rode the Tour cannot be part of the selection committee, with the six-person panel consisting of:
-Peter Bartels AO, Commonwealth Games gold medallist 1962
-Anna Wilson, two time winner of the UCI World Cup
-John Trevorrow, three time Jayco Herald Sun Tour winner
-Shayne Bannan, Orica-GreenEdge team manager
-Rupert Guinness, reported on more Tours de France's than any other Australian journalist and Cyclingnews contributor
-Matthew Keenan, Tour de France commentator
"No doubt everyone will have an opinion on who should be in the team," said Bartels. "Hopefully it creates a lot of debate on bunch rides in the lead-up to the announcement."
Under Cycling Australia's anti-doping stance, riders who have served a doping suspension or made a doping confession will not be eligible for selection to the team.