New Australian national road race champion Michael Freiberg has missed out on a place in the UniSA Australia team for the Tour Down Under due to rules and selection procedures that support the best NRS teams and favours the development of younger Australian riders.
The 28-year-old Freiberg outsprinted fellow Continental-level rider Chris Harper (Team BridgeLane) and Cameron Meyer (Mitchelton-Scott) after catching them in the final kilometre.
However, Freiberg’s green and gold jersey will not be seen at the Tour Down Under next week due to the complex selection process. Cycling Australia ceded five of the seven UniSA-Australia Team spots to the leading NRS team from the preceding year, in this case Team BridgeLane. The two remaining places selected by Cycling Australia are awarded to younger riders.
The riders selected for the Tour Down Under are Ayden Toovey (Team BridgeLane), Jason Lea (Team BridgeLane), designated road captain Neil Van der Ploeg (Team BridgeLane), Dylan Sunderland (Team BridgeLane), Chris Harper (Team BridgeLane), Nick White (CA) and Michael Potter (CA).
Feiberg has been named as a reserve and has been selected for the subsequent Toward Zero Race Melbourne and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
"The decision not to include Michael Freiberg in the UniSA Australian Team for Tour Down Under was not taken lightly, as he is a former World Omnium Champion and current Elite National Road Champion," a statement from Cycling Australia said.
"It’s a matter Cycling Australia has been discussing directly with him. But the decision is in accordance with a future facing strategy that CA set out some time ago and to which we are committed. At the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race he will get a chance to perform on the WorldTour stage."
For Cycling Australia's Performance Director Simon Jones, all of the selections are the realisation of a clear strategy.
"These teams support the NRS and ongoing development of athletes who are on an upward trajectory towards elite performance in the future," he said in the announcement.
"There are riders in these teams who may some day be competitive at the highest level alongside those who have already made it to the top ranks. We know that the route to being a world-class road rider takes time, persistence and patience."
Neylan leads women’s team, Gigante earns place in later races
Cycling Australia also confirmed the line-up for the Women's Santos Tour Down Under that was first revealed in December. The UniSA Australia team includes Lauren Kitchen (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope), Anya Louw (Tasmania Institute of Sport Racing), Rachel Neylan (Team VIRTU Cycling), Emily Roper, Josie Talbot (Specialized) and Rebecca Wiasak (Fearless Femme Racing).
Roper headlines the women’s teams for both the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and Race Melbourne, alongside two-time National Criterium winner Wiasak and Ruby Roseman-Gannon. The trio will join team captain Neylan, Georgia Whitehouse and 18-year-old national road champion Sarah Gigante, who upstaged a host of WorldTour riders to win the green and gold.
Gigante has also been added to the team for the Herald Sun Tour, which features Roper, who will captain, Whitehouse, Louw, Roseman-Gannon and Jessica Pratt.
Jones said of the selection: "The Women’s teams have young talent who can be guided by Rachel Neylan, who has the experience to make a big difference in this race. We’ve seen what Sarah Gigante is capable of, and there are many other good young riders coming through."
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