Dennis, Porte, Spratt and Brown spearhead Australia's Olympic Games road team

HARROGATE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: <<enter caption here>> on September 28, 2019 in Harrogate, England. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Amanda Spratt on her way to the podium at the 2019 World Road Championships (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Experienced Olympians Amanda Spratt and Rohan Dennis have been selected to headline Australia's road cycling squads, with Richie Porte and Grace Brown also part of the line-up that will take on the hilly courses of the Tokyo Olympic Games in July.

Jack Haig and Cameron Meyer complete the men's team while Tiffany Cromwell and Sarah Gigante have secured the final spots on the women's squad. Brown – who came fifth in the World Road Championships time trial last year – and two-time Australian time-trial champion Gigante will line up for the race against the clock as well as the road race, as will Dennis, who is a two-time world champion in the discipline. 

It will be the third appearance at the Olympics for the 33-year-old Spratt and 30-year-old Dennis, and second for Australian road champion Meyer and Porte. Brown, Gigante, Cromwell and Haig will be making their Olympic debut.

“We've got a really great team for Tokyo,” Spratt, who has twice stood on the podium at the Road World Championships, said. 

“We've got a great road Captain in Tiffany Cromwell, we've seen what Grace has been doing over in Europe and that youth of Sarah Gigante, we've got a strong and well-rounded team that will really suit this course.”

Spratt, who has also twice stood on the podium of the Giro Rosa, has long been a strong contender to lead the charge for the women's squad at the Tokyo Olympics, with the climb heavy course playing to her strengths. Her Team BikeExchange teammate Brown has continued stepping up in the past year, taking her first Women's WorldTour win at Brugge-De Panne this year. 

Cromwell will fill the role of road captain for the women's squad, the ever experienced Canyon-SRAM rider having lined up for Australia at the Road World Championships 10 times.

20-year-old Gigante may be the youngest member of the Australian team, but the TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank rider's stand out performances on the climbs and in time trials have seen her challenging experienced professionals for the win ever since she stepped out of the junior ranks.

Porte, who has for many years been one of Australia's top climbers, said the selection in the four-man road team was a massive career highlight for him, with plenty of tough competition for the spots.

“You don't take for granted to be selected for the team in a country like Australia as it has so many worthy guys to choose from, so to just make the team, it's a big honour," said Porte. 

“I think it's going to be a fantastic Games; I look forward to just getting there and racing. I think it's a fantastic course, it's going to be hard, but we can aim to be up there for the podium."

The 36-year-old, who last year placed third at the Tour de France, also led the charge for the team at Rio, though crashed out in the road race, while Dennis came fifth in the time trial despite having to change bikes after his aero bars cracked. 

Dennis sat out the road race in 2016. This time, however, he's likely to be a valuable ally for Porte – who races for the same Ineos Grenadiers squad – having shown just how powerful he can be in domestique mode last year when he helped Tao Geoghegan Hart deliver victory at the Giro d'Italia.

Last time Meyer was at the Olympics, in 2008, he was racing on the track but this time the recently crowned Australian champion will be providing support on the road, just as he is now for Team BikeExchange leader Simon Yates at the Giro d'Italia. 

Haig, who this year shifted to Bahrain Victorious, has proven himself a valuable domestique in the mountains and so far in 2021 has also secured a couple of top ten GC results himself, at the Tour de la Provence and Paris-Nice.

There was also one new rider selected for the track team, named in March last year before the Olympics was postponed. 

Track endurance rider Amy Cure, who has retired since then is being replaced by Alexandra Manly, while Ashlee Ankudinoff, Annette Edmondson, Georgia Baker and Maeve Plouffe maintain their spots. 

Kaarlee McCulloch will be the sole women’s sprint athlete as the nation hasn’t announced a replacement for the retired Stephanie Morton.

The men’s endurance squad of Leigh Howard, Luke Plapp, Kelland O’Brien, Alexander Porter and Sam Welsford remains unchanged. So does the men’s sprint team, with Matthew Glaetzer, Nathan Hart and Matt Richardson.

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