In the past two seasons, an Australian has finished second overall at the Tour de l'Avenir and gone on to sign with the Orica-BikeExchange team. Rob Power became the first Australian to finish on the podium at the 'U23 Tour de France' in 2014, with Jack Haig matching his result 12-months later.
First year neo-pro Haig is about to line out for his first grand tour at the Vuelta a Espana, while Power will make his debut with the team after a rare bone marrow disease delayed his professional debut.
Both riders were introduced to European racing in the Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy team that has also provided a pathway to the WorldTour ranks for the likes of Caleb Ewan and Alex Edmondson in recent seasons.
Lucas Hamilton is aiming to become the third Australian in as many years to make his mark at Tour de l'Avenir in his first season in the U23 ranks. The 20-year-old narrowly lost the Australian U23 road title to Chris Hamilton, of no relation, before making his WorldTour debut at the Tour Down Under in January.
On the queen stage up Willunga Hill, Hamilton attacked from the select group before finishing 14th in what would be a sign of things to come. He unfortunately crashed out of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour before heading to Europe where his first race was the Gent-Wevelgem nations cup.
"I think racing against WorldTour blokes was a big experience with how they go about things and then coming into and using that experience for rest of the season will be a massive advantage because you can do things the way a professional does things and see where they conserve energy and use their energy and all that sort of stuff," Hamilton told Cyclingnews of his early-season racing and benefits of racing the Australian WorldTour event. "I think that can be a big benefit for some of the races across the season."
In a change from previous seasons, the Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy team moved it base from Italy to Belgium for the first half of the season with the squad taking on several new races with almost entirely new faces as well. One of those races was the An Post Ras, which at eight days became the longest tour Hamilton had raced.
Fifth place on stage three lifted him into the top-ten overall but it would be his fourth place finish on stage seven that placed him third overall for his best result yet of 2016.
The U23 team shifted its base back to Italy after the Ras in preparation for the second half of season and having gained valuable experience, Hamilton adjusted his ambitions from learning to gaining results as he explained.
"In the first half it's been more about the learning side of things like how to ride the position in the bunch, using the bunch and saving energy for the important parts. We've even done a few seven and eight days tours so we are learning how to conserve energy throughout the week which will hopefully benefit me for races like Tour de l'Avenir which I believe suits me really well," said Hamilton who also rode the seven-day Tour de Bretagne, finishing 19th overall.
In the lead into the biggest U23 stage race of the season, Hamilton and his teammates have shown they are approaching the race in form with Michael Storer winning the one-day GP di Poggiana, and Jai Hindley the GP Capodarco two days later in which Hamilton was fourth.
The trio will be joined by Daniel Fitter, Sam Jenner, and Nicholas Schultz for the Tour de l'Avenir, which concludes with a stage to the Col de la Croix de Fer, with Hamilton to test his legs before deciding on his overall ambition.
"I'll go into it with a day-by-day mindset, it's definitely the biggest tour so everyone is in their best form so I'll have to wait and see how I match up," he said of his approach to the race. "This year. If there is a possibility to get a result, I'd really love to so there is no doubt I am going to get a result. It will just be whether I have to experience the first few days of it before I can make a call what I am really after, whether that is a stage win or GC position.
"I think it suits me the most and it's a race I'd really like to do well in."
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