12-months ago Lucas Hamilton was largely an unknown quantity ahead of the Australian 'summer of cycling' but fast forward to the present and the 20-year-old is one of the first picks for the Australian national teams at the Tour Down Under, Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, and the Herald Sun Tour.
Hamilton's 2016 World Tour Academy teammates Jai Hindley, Michael Storer and Callum Scotson will join the Victorian in the UniSA-Australia team at the Tour Down Under. Hindley and Storer will also ride the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, and the Herald Sun Tour where Scotson will also ride in the national team colours.
In his first year of racing at U23 level, Hamilton made his mark in Australia at the Tour Down Under before jetting off to Europe with the national team where his KOM win at the Tour de l'Avenir displayed his potential in the high mountains of France. An ambitious Hamilton is aiming to make the most of the racing with the national team, placing an emphasis on learning as much as possible. Before his stint with the national team, Hamilton will start his 2017 season by targeting the Australian U23 title on January 7 in Ballarat.
"I feel very privileged to be selected in such a quality team, as the Aussie teams are that do the races, I think it is a good opportunity for some of us Australians, and for some young guys to showcase themselves against the world's best on home soil," Hamilton told Cyclingnews of his selection. "I think last year's TDU especially I didn't really get to race much the year before and I hadn't done any racing in Europe except for a junior so didn't have much experience bunch wise. I have been racing since I was a kid but I guess when you step up to that whole new level it is different. Coming into this next years race I will have a lot more experience under my belt after spending a full season in Europe. This year I learned a lot about the structure of the race and the way they race it and that will benefit me a lot in 2017."
Hamilton launched a long range attack on the queen stage of the 2016 Tour Down Under up Willunga Hill but anticipates that he won't be given as much freedom in 2017. That doesn't mean he won't be aggressive though and take his opportunities with the young rider classification a major aim at the WorldTour race.
"I won't be able to do the same thing, I don't think I will have an attack early on as maybe I will have to change my tactics. UniSA always races aggressively so I don't think that will change. That has always been the way that team has raced," he explained. "Maybe me being a little bit more known will make it a little bit easier to find my way around the peloton but I guess it also makes it a bit difficult to go up the road."
With experience of racing the Tour Down Under and the Herald Sun Tour, albeit short, Hamilton will be riding the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race for the first time in 2017. While Hamilton has displayed his capabilities in riding GC at stage races, he has also shown his one-day characteristics with second in the U23 road race, fourth at GP Capodarco, and fifth at Flèche Ardennaise. The parcours may not be entirely suited to Hamilton but he is still aiming to race aggressively.
"Cadels race is very tough course, it may not 100 per cent suit me but I think there is a chance there to create an opportunity but it depends on how the race plays out. There is a chance for anyone of us to have a go in the finale. It is probably more punchy than anything but as you saw this year it was one by riding away on the climb but winning by himself. I think there is potential there to something like that but I guess with it being WorldTour so it will be even harder again so maybe it will be raced differently. You just have to play that one ear."
The international summer racing concludes with the Herald Sun Tour where Hamilton will be able to test himself against Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Esteban Chaves (Orca-BikeExchange) on a climbing friendly course. Stage 1 to Falls Creek features a 20km climb while the stage 4 finale around Kinglake are the two major opportunities that Hamilton is aiming to make the most of with the young rider classification also an aim for the UCI 2.1 stage race.
"I think it is a really good opportunity for us guys to race on a terrain which is suited to us but also suited to them," said Hamilton, who recently invited on Orica-Scott's Australian training camp in Canberra. "It will be a good chance to try our best, as we always do, and see where that puts us. Last year really suited me and it was really unfortunate that I crashed out so I am pretty eager to get back and give it a go on some of those really hard stages. Falls is definitely a big goal for myself."
Although he may be ambitious and wanting to test himself against the likes of a three-time Tour de France winner, Hamilton is also equally emphasising the importance of taking in the opportunity and soaking in every moment.
"It is always good to have ambitions to get some results but I think coming off such high-class races, more than anything you want to learn and gain some valuable experience for the figure. If I can get to the end of these three races and know exactly what I have learned and what I can do differently and just be more experienced coming out them, that is just as big a goal as getting a result. I would be happy with a result but I am also happy just to learn from the pros and gain some experience that a lot of other people don't the opportunity for."