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Aussies on Tour: The 10 riders flying the flag in France

Richie Porte and Ben O'Connor played leading roles at the recent Dauphiné and are set to do the same at the Tour de France
Richie Porte and Ben O'Connor played leading roles at the recent Dauphiné and are set to do the same at the Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images)

Last year, the Australian riders were thin on the ground at the Tour de France, with just two on the start line. Nevertheless, given those two riders were Richie Porte and Caleb Ewan, they gave the fans from across the other side of the globe plenty to cheer about. 

This year both are back, but what's more, they are joined by a strong list of compatriots, adding depth to the presence that should give viewers from the nation plenty to keep them awake as they watch the racing unfold in the early hours of the morning.

The 10 Australian riders that will be lining up in Brest on June 26 range from the experienced Porte, who stood on the Tour de France podium in the third spot last year, to the 22-year-old Queenslander Harry Sweeny, who, in his first year as a professional will be making his debut at the Grand Tour riding in support of Ewan. 

What's more, on the GC front, there are a crop of up-and-coming Australian riders who are getting a first opportunity to show what they are really capable of in the race for overall results at a Grand Tour. It may be too much to ask this year, but among them could well be one of the next Australians to follow Porte and Cadel Evans onto the podium at the Tour de France.

To find out more, read on for the Cyclingnews guide to the Australian riders at the Tour de France this year.

Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers)

  • Age: 36
  • Tour de France record: 10 starts, 3rd in 2020, 5th in 2016
  • Role: Super domestique

Richie Porte won the Criterium du Dauphine 2021

Richie Porte won the Criterium du Dauphine 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

In 2020, Richie Porte became the first Australian to stand on the podium since Cadel Evans, and now, fresh from a win at the Critérium du Dauphiné, there's no doubt he looks like a force to be reckoned with. This year, however, he is lining up with a team that's so packed with potential leaders that the most likely scenario is that you'll see him working hard in the mountains, so valuable as support that just 'domestique' alone as a description doesn't cut it. 

If all plays out as expected, the super-domestique could be supporting 2018 Tour winner, Geraint Thomas, or maybe 2019 Giro d'Italia winner Richard Carapaz. But we all know that the Tour doesn't always run to plan, so with the consistency and strength the Tasmanian has been showing, there's still a chance that one of the most valuable mountain domestiques could end up stepping in to save the day if Carapaz and Thomas happen to stumble.

Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën)

  • Age: 25 
  • Tour de France record: Debut
  • Role: GC leader

There was no looking over Ben O'Connor at last year's Giro d'Italia because if his second place on stage 16 wasn't enough to draw attention he quickly followed it up with his first WorldTour win on stage 17. At the start of 2021 came a change of team, a consistent string of strong results – impressive enough that his one year contract quickly had three more years added – and now he is set to line up for his first Tour de France, with a French team no less, as a GC rider. 

He has had a strong run-in, finishing sixth overall at the Tour de Romandie, eighth at the Critérium du Dauphiné and fourth at the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge. Going for the overall is undoubtedly a big call on debut but, as O'Connor told Cyclingnews earlier this month: "I just figure if things don't work out as you hope, you can always go for a stage win." 

Either way, it should be exciting to watch.

Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious)

  • Age: 27 
  • Tour de France record: one appearance - 38th in 2019
  • Role: GC leader

Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious)

Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

It'll be Jack Haig's second Tour de France and sixth Grand Tour and he's another of the up-and-coming group of Australians that has taken a considerable step up as he's moved to his new team. 

Switching over to Bahrain Victorious after six years with Australian squad Mitchelton-Scott, Haig started his year with seventh at Tour de la Provence and also came home in seventh place at Paris-Nice. He lifted that to fifth at the run-in race, the Critérium du Dauphiné, just 34 seconds behind winner Porte.

Haig's best result at a Grand Tour so far was 19th in the Vuelta a España but this is the first time he's had a chance to ride for himself over three weeks. He'll be taking on the GC challenge while others in the team, such as Sonny Colbrelli and Dylan Teuns, will be looking for stage wins.

Haig has also landed another prized team spot and will be heading to the Olympics to represent Australia straight after the Tour, where he'll have to quickly switch allegiances and race in support of Porte.

Lucas Hamilton (Team BikeExchange)

  • Age: 25
  • Tour de France record: Debut
  • Role: GC leader

LEUKERBAD SWITZERLAND JUNE 10 Lucas Hamilton of Australia and Team Bikeexchange during the 84th Tour de Suisse 2021 Stage 5 a 1752km stage from Gstaad to Leukerbad 1385m UCIworldtour tds tourdesuisse on June 10 2021 in Leukerbad Switzerland Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Hamilton at the Tour de Suisse (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

This is a big debut for the rider from Ararat, his first Tour de France and his first Grand Tour as team leader. He's been stepping up the ranks this year, riding as a team GC contender with top-10s in Tour de Romandie and Volta a Catalunya, and riding as high as sixth in the Tour de Suisse before bowing out with gastroenteritis. Most impressively, he was one step off the podium at Paris-Nice.

The team have long been developing the rider they took on in 2018 when he was still under-23, and now it seems the time is right for him to step up into the leadership role he has been groomed for. Taking the pressure off somewhat, not to mention surrounding the riders with some handy experience, Simon Yates will be lining up post-Giro d'Italia with stage victories in mind rather than the overall, as will Esteban Chaves. 

Still, there's no question that it is a huge step up for Hamilton, and if he manages as well as all the other opportunities this year, he will be one of the key Australian riders to watch in this year's Tour and probably many more into the future.

Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange)

  • Age: 30
  • Tour de France record: 6 starts
  • Role: Road captain

Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange)

Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The West Australian has plenty of experience so it is no surprise to see him step into the role of road captain for the Australian-based squad at the Tour de France. It's a role that's always important but becomes even more so with a debuting GC rider on the team. 

He's also part of the engine room for the team, with his sheer power and ability to drive the pace a huge asset, so expect to see him on the front working in those crucial moments when Team BikeExchange need a break to be pulled back in or the peloton torn apart.

Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange)

  • Age: 30
  • Tour de France record: 5 starts, 3 stage wins, 1 Green jersey
  • Role: Selective sprinter/medium mountain stages

Michael Matthews (BikeExchange)

Michael Matthews (BikeExchange) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

For Michael Matthews not to be racing the Tour de France would be unthinkable, since it was being left out of the race at Team Sunweb that was one of the factors that precipitated the move back to the Australian-based team. Leaving that aside, for a squad that's looking for stage wins you'd be hard-pressed to look past the sprinter who excels when the conditions get a little too hilly for many of his rivals. He has three stage victories and a green jersey to show for his five appearances at the race so far. 

Matthews has already spotted some stages that he thinks suit him, among them opportunities in the first week, so if he can capitalise on one of those he could deliver some early excitement to get the Australia viewers hooked in for a nice long haul of sleep deprivation. He's bound to be hoping he can deliver a win, and the sooner the better, as while he has been in the top-five plenty of times so far this year, he hasn't made it to the top step of the podium since his return to Team BikeExchange.

Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal)

  • Age: 26
  • Tour de France record: 2 starts, 5 stage wins
  • Role: Sprinter

Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal)

Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

While we are talking about sprinters and the green jersey, it seems an opportune time to bring Caleb Ewan into the conversation. He will probably be responsible for much of the chatter in the Australian mainstream media as, when it comes to Australians at the Tour, there is nothing like raking up victories to get sports reporters to – for a moment at least – stray from their usual diet of Aussie Rules football news.

Ewan may have walked away from the Giro d'Italia during stage 8, after suffering from knee pain, but he still already had two stage victories under his belt, leaving his rivals with the clear message that he is as fast as ever. The Tour de France is the next step in his plan to win at least one stage in every Grand Tour this year, but don't expect him to rest on his laurels if he gets that one victory under his belt early. The team have picked out six or seven sprint stages they think will suit him. 

Even though he has only raced the French Grand Tour twice, he has already amassed five stage wins and finished with a podium place 10 times. Plus, he came second in the green jersey contest in 2019. That competition is even more open now that last year's winner Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) isn't lining up.

Harry Sweeny (Lotto Soudal)

  • Age: 22
  • Tour de France record: Debut 
  • Role: Sprint lead out

Harry Sweeny (Lotto Soudal) racing in the Bredene Koksijde Classic

Harry Sweeny (Lotto Soudal) racing in the Bredene Koksijde Classic (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

One of the things Caleb Ewan has going for him – apart from his incredibly powerful turn of speed of course – is that he is the clear leader of the team and, given the square focus on the sprints, he's got a handy bunch of riders around to lead him out. One of those is Queenslander Harry Sweeny, who, in his first year with the WorldTour team, will be making his Grand Tour debut in France as part of the crew supporting one of the top sprinters in the field. Not a bad start at all.

Sweeny is the youngest of the Australian's on the Tour and will be celebrating his 23rd birthday on the race. He came onto Lotto Soudal this year having already ridden for the U23 team and already knew and had trained with Ewan, so it is not such a big surprise that he has been so quickly introduced as part of the lead-out team, alongside Jasper De Buyst, Roger Kluge and Tosh Van der Sande.

Simon Clarke (Qhubeka Assos)

  • Age: 34
  • Tour de France record: 5 starts 
  • Role: Road captain

Simon Clarke (Qhubeka Assos)

Simon Clarke (Qhubeka Assos) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The experienced rider will be helping guide Qhubeka Assos, lining up as road captain, alongside Austrian cyclist Michael Gogl. The 34-year-old, who will actually be celebrating his 35th birthday on the race, will be starting his 15th Grand Tour. 

The versatile rider has spent much of his career being a crucial cog in delivering the success of his teammates but has also won the mountains classification at the Vuelta a España, as well as two stages. His wins come from the breaks, so while he's likely to fade into the peloton working for his team most of the time, if he does get an opportunity to go for a result, he'll likely be out the front for the long haul.

Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ)

  • Age: 27
  • Tour de France record: Debut
  • Role: Domestique

Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ) takes first international victory on stage 1 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2021

Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ) wins stage 1 of the  Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2021 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The 24-year-old took his first international victory in the professional ranks earlier this year, using his time-trialling prowess to go on a long solo to take the win on stage 1 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. He doesn't often have a chance to go for the victory himself, working toward the results of others, and that will also be the case when he makes his debut at this year's Tour de France. 

The team will be led by Arnaud Démare for the sprints and David Gaudu in the GC, with the 24-year-old stepping up given Thibaut Pinot's ongoing struggles with a back injury sustained in last year's race. Given Scotson's versatility as a rider, he's bound to be working to help both throughout the Tour.