With the Australian 'summer of cycling' coming to a close on Sunday with the conclusion of the Herald Sun Tour, Lucas Hamilton brought the curtains down on a successful five-week block of a racing.
"I didn't peak as much as I did the year before for nationals to make sure leading into Herald Sun that I would still be in good form. Coming off the racing we've had, we've only gotten better and better as a team," Hamilton told Cyclingnews of his start to the year. "I am really happy with where I am at and it's been a pretty good summer."
Second at last year's U23 national road race, Hamilton was third in January before heading to the Tour Down Under where he placed 24th overall. Hamilton then claimed the young rider prize at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race by finishing 14th. Eighth place on the 29km climb up Falls Creek on stage 1 of the Herald Sun Tour further demonstrated his capabilities in the high mountains and ensured he finished seventh overall on GC.
One place lower than Team Sky's Chris Froome and two places ahead of Orica-Scott's Esteban Chaves.
"It's a little bit surreal when you're racing up against Chaves and Froome and on you're on the climb with three kilometres to go and it's just them two and yourself," he recounted of the Falls Creek climb. "It's surreal and a little bit intimidating but at the end of the day, we are all here to race and that is a priority for us."
Hamilton's Falls Creek ride set up his GC position but he still had to navigate a tough three days of racing to hold onto his GC position. Asked what his take out was of the summer, Hamilton explained it was quite simple. Greater consistency.
"I think positioning is much harder when you're just a national team but we've raced really well and here we put ourselves up there. Just being stress-free and in good position at the right time is one of the biggest things I've learned," he said. "The biggest thing is just the consistency of form. Last year I crashed at Tour Down Under on a GC day, this tour I crashed out on stage 1. So I have been able to do a couple of tours now and just be consistent throughout. I think that has been the biggest take out, just riding every day like a GC rider, rather than just a one-day race."
Changes to the Australian national U23 team this year has led to the creation of the Mitchelton-Scott Continental team, registered under a Chinese license, which will replace the WorldTour academy set up. Hamilton will be racing with the team in Europe this season alongside several teammates from the national squads from the 'summer of cycling'. His goals for later in the year includes races such as Tour de l'Avenir where he won the KOM jersey in 2016.
National team director sportif James Victor will also be in the car for the Mitchelton-Scott squad, linking up again with Hamilton et al, and told Cyclingnews and SBS at the Herald Sun Tour that he believes the current crop of U23 riders is as good as he's even seen. Adding he was pleased the riders turned down opportunities to move into the WorldTour to continue their focus on development in 2017.
"As far as the last eight years go, it is as good as any group I have had on the road and now with Sam Jenner involved and a few young guys coming on board with our team we are in for a really good year in Europe with these guys," said Victor.