Tour Down Under: Sunweb support role for Hamilton

Australian benefitting from Grand Tour experience ahead of season opener

Lining out for his third Santos Tour Down Under next week, Chris Hamilton is ready to play a team role in support of Sam Oomen with Team Sunweb.

The 22-year-old enjoyed the first off-season of his young career late last year following a debut season in the WorldTour ranks with Sunweb.

Hamilton's debut season included finishing the Vuelta a España, and while the physical effects of the three-week long race are yet to fully materialise, the Bendigo local explained to Cyclingnews the "experience alone is a benefit".

"It scales everything down after racing or three weeks. Racing is never easy but you can appreciate the shorter ones a bit more," he said.

Signed to Sunweb on a three-year deal, Hamilton rode 15 races in 2017 with the team. Of those races, 11 were at WorldTour level with the Tour of California and De Brabantse Pijl the only times he failed to finish a race. Looking back at the season and reflecting on his Grand Tour debut, Hamilton explained he has found new depths to his mental resilience.

"It really opened my eyes to just how far you can push yourself. Having a full season in the pro peloton, it is obviously going to build up an extra level," he said. "It has made me change my mental state in how far and how much I can push myself in training. As long as you are looking after your body and fuelling yourself right, you can a lot more than you think."

Aside from hiring a new coach, Hamilton's philosophy is "don't fix what is not broken" and he will stick to a fairly similar race programme but with different goals.

Hamilton is still looking for his first professional victory, but with a decade-plus of racing ahead of him, continuing to learn and hone his craft as a road cyclist takes precedence.

"If you are a cyclist you want to win. If you are in any sport, you want to win," Hamilton told Cyclingnews. "For me, just being here racing my bike for a living is at the moment enough fire in the belly to keep me going. If I can be a part of winning team - I was last year and it is such a great feeling - I know that I am only 22 years old so I have a lot of time left to start worrying about the big picture. I want to work with the team and trust in what they know and take it gradually."

Although Hamilton admits, "I don't have a lot of experience", he will be a key rider for Oomen, who is Sunweb's number one GC option at the Tour Down Under. Looking at the race parcours, Hamilton expects the new stage 4 finish in Uraidla via Norton Summit to shake up the race. He and roommate Michael Storer will be called upon to shepherd Oomen into position for what will be his first big test of 2018.

"If the bunch is strung out and someone wants to ride it from the bottom, I think there can be 30 guys at the top of something," he said. "Especially where we turn off Norton Summit and it gets quite steep and an undulating finish after that. I can't see there being a big team to control it. It could very much be a decisive stage."

The following day's racing up Willunga Hill remains the queen stage of the race and Hamilton is hoping Sunweb can end Richie Porte's four-year winning streak.

"It would be good to see because I do admire Richie so much but at the same time it might be up to us to steal it off him," he said. 

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