WorldTour tragic Peter Maniaty discusses ten professional Aussie riders looking to make an impact in ‘23.
Long gone are the days of playing ‘spot the Aussie’ in the professional peloton. Currently, around 40 Australian men and women are signed to UCI WorldTour squads for 2023 – and it may nudge even higher by season’s end. Of course, while they may share a common passport, each rider brings their own goals, hopes and dreams for the racing ahead.
The stakes are inevitably higher for some than others. Perhaps it’s a contract year? Maybe they’re returning from injury? Trying to erase a season to forget? Starting with a new team? Or desperate to prove they’re no ‘one-season wonder’ after a break-out 2022?
With all this in mind, and in no particular order, here are ten Aussies likely to spend plenty of time under the microscope in 2023 as the new UCI racing season unfolds.
Kaden Groves, 24
2022 highlight: 1st Stage 11 – Vuelta España
After four years with GreenEdge, Groves is on the move in 2023, having signed a two-year contract with the newly-promoted WorldTour squad, Alpecin-Deceuninck. Highly touted as a “sprinter of the future” by Matt White (his now-former Sports Director), Groves delivered generally modest results in his first three seasons with the Aussie squad before starting to show glimpses of his full potential in 2022 with multiple wins, podiums and even a maiden Grand Tour victory on Stage 11 at the Vuelta.
Of course, a new team with new masters means it’s time to step up. Whilst Groves is likely to play second fiddle to fellow 24-year-old Jasper Philipsen – at least initially – the good news is with Tim Merlier departed for Soudal-QuickStep, there will no doubt be plenty of opportunities. Fingers crossed he can seize them.
Sarah Gigante, 22
2022 highlight: 1st Emakumeen Nafarroako
Surely, if anyone deserves a change in fortunes for the 2023 season it’s the hugely likeable 3x Elite Women’s National Champion, Sarah Gigante. Still only 22 and signed with Movistar until the end of 2024, the coming season will hopefully see Gigante re-emerge as she continues along the comeback trail after two heavily disjointed seasons through injuries and illness.
The uber-talented Victorian was able to muster just 17 race days last year before her season came to an abrupt end in August, and current indications from both Movistar and her management suggest it may be a little longer before we see her back in action. “I’m not sure about the team’s plans for this summer just yet,” Gigante told Bicycling Australia magazine in November, having just finished her uni studies for the year.
“In 2022, we had a January team camp in southern Spain while Nationals were on, so perhaps it will be similar in 2023. I love the Aussie racing very much, so if I can be there, I definitely will be. But it’s a wait-and-see game at this stage.” Whenever Gigante’s 2023 season does begin, her primary objective will be getting an extended period of racing under her belt, rather than results per se. “I’d love to get stronger and fitter,” Gigante explains.
“But also gain a lot more experience racing in the European peloton, which is a very different experience to racing in Australia. I hope to be able to support my teammates as well as possible and line up for many more race days, including at some big races.” If she can do that, watch out. The sky is still the limit.
Amanda Spratt, 35
2022 Highlight: 10th Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes
Death, taxes and Spratty riding for GreenEdge. Well, not any more. Amanda Spratt, 35, has been accumulating UCI points for more than 15 years, including no less than a decade with Gerry Ryan’s squad. While one of the most reliable performers on the WorldTour, it’s been a few seasons since Spratt was at the apex of the women’s peloton, with her last top-level victory being Stage 2 of the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under in 2020, almost three years ago.
But instead of stepping away from the bike, the Sydneysider has signed a two-year contract with a new team, Trek-Segafredo. Will it give the Penrith CC veteran a new lease on life? You get the feeling it might just be the tonic. Here’s hoping for a fabulous finale in 2023/24, before Spratt hangs up the cleats for good.
Caleb Ewen, 28
2022 Highlight: 1st Stage 3
2022 started brilliantly for the Moss Vale Missile, with Ewan winning his very first race, Stage 1 of the Saudi Tour. While he still ended the year with seven wins (more than many pro riders claim in their entire careers), by his lofty standards last season was largely one to forget – especially after a 2021 that was also heavily affected by crashes and injuries.
No one will be more motivated to bounce back, hard, than Caleb himself. Even more so with 20-year-old teammate, Arnaud de Lie, nipping at his heels at the now-relegated Lotto-Destny. Of course, the famed Belgian squad will also have new – and, at the time of writing, still unknown – senior management in 2023, with John Lelangue having departed at the end of 2022. It will be worth watching closely for the early season chemistry, as it’s likely to provide a strong indicator of things to come.
Jack Haig, 29
2022 Highlight: 5th overall
– Criterium du Dauphine
2022 loomed as a career-defining year for Jack Haig, after a breakout performance at the 2021 Vuelta that saw him standing on the final GC podium. Things were looking good when Haig finished 5th at the 2022 Dauphine for the second year running. But sadly, and also for the second year running, he then crashed out of the Tour de France on Stage 5 and we never saw him again, finishing the season with a UCI ranking of just 123rd. At 29, Haig is surely at – or very near – the peak of his GC powers.
He’s also in the critical middle year of his contract with Bahrain Victorious and will no doubt be very keen to prove he continues to deserve full team support at one, if not more, of the year’s Grand Tours. With so much exciting young GC talent around, it could be now or never in 2023.
Hamish McKenzie, 18
ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast
2022 Highlight: 2nd Junior Men’s ITT
– UCI Road World Championships
McKenzie made a great start to 2022, claiming the Junior Men’s National time trial and criterium titles at Buninyong. However, by the end of the season a global audience would know the 18-year-old’s name, courtesy of a superb silver medal in the Junior Men’s time trial in Wollongong behind only rising British star, Joshua Tarling, who has since been snapped up by Ineos Grenadiers. McKenzie begins 2023 as part of the high-achieving domestic squad, ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast. But it may be wise to enjoy the Launceston teen while we can, for Europe may soon be calling.
McKenzie is already on the radar of reigning Tour de France champions Team Jumbo-Visma having joined the squad for a training camp in Slovenia in mid-2022. A strong start to the 2023 domestic calendar could, at the very least, lead to stagiaire offers aplenty. A rider most definitely to watch.
Jai Hindley, 26
2022 Highlight: Maglia Rosa – Giro d’Italia
Following a career-defining season that delivered Australia’s first-ever overall victory at the Giro d’Italia, 2022 will be a hard – if not impossible – act for the talented Western Australian to follow. Hindley’s place in the history books is assured. Question is, can the 26-year-old add an even more glorious chapter to his palmarès and mount a serious tilt at the Tour de France podium in 2023? Will his team even try?
Going head-to-head with the juggernauts of Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates is one of the steepest challenges in pro cycling. But the prospect of Aussie cycling fans having another bonafide GC chance to cheer come July is a tantalising one. Let’s hope it happens.
Brodie Mai Chapman, 31
Highlight: 1st Grand Prix Féminin de Chambéry
Brodie Chapman may be nearly 32, but she seems so much younger. A relative latecomer to the elite road racing, she continues to make up for lost time since a breakthrough performance at the 2018 Herald Sun Tour. 2022 saw Chapman take victory at the Grand Prix Féminin de Chambéry.
But her 9th on the iconic cobbles and bergs of the Tour of Flanderswas arguably more significant. Chapman also rode a brilliant race for the Australian women’s team on home roads in Wollongong in September, ultimately finishing 21st.
2023 marks Chapman’s first season with Trek-Segafredo after three years with FDJ Suez Futuroscope and, if Classics podiums await, you get the feeling this is the year. Hopefully, local fans will get to see plenty of Chapman’s early season racing up close in Ballarat, Adelaide and especially Geelong where she finished 6th in 2019 and 10th in 2020.
And after this was written Brodie won the ultimate road race – she is 2023 Aussie National Champion.
“…instead of stepping away from the bike, Amanda Spratt has signed a two-year contract with a new team, Trek-Segafredo…”
Zac Marriage, 19
2022 Highlight: 1st GC – Sunshine Coast Tour (NRS)
In January 2021, Zac Marriage placed second in Junior Men’s road race at the National Championships (Hamish Mckenzie was 9th in the same race). A year later, having just turned 18, he claimed third in the U23 time trial and the South Australian prospect continues to bubble away nicely.
Last October, barely a month shy of his 19th birthday, Marriage surged firmly into the elite-level spotlight winning the overall title at the 5-Stage 2022 Cycle Sunshine Coast for perennial NRS heavyweights, Team Bridgelane.
Like many talented U23s, Marriage appears to be on a steep improvement trajectory right now and a big 2023 could see him soon following the well-travelled path of his team’s illustrious WorldTour honour roll which, most recently, features 2022 Bridgelane teammate Matthew Dinham, 22, who now rides for Team DSM.
Jay Vine, 27
Team UAE Emirates
2022 Highlight: 1st Stages 6 & 8
– Vuelta España
One of pro cycling’s more creative career journeys reaches a whole new level in 2023. Jay Vine has swapped his Canyon for a Colnago and who knows how far the likeable 2020 Zwift Academy winner and reigning UCI Esports World Champion can go?
Shortly after completing a breakthrough 2022 season headlined by two sensational stage wins at the Vuelta and overall podiums at both the Tour of Turkey and the Tour of Norway, Vine cut his contract with Alpecin-Deceuninck 12 months short to link up with Tadej Pogačar and Co at UAE Team Emirates.
It will be fascinating to see how the Queenslander goes and, indeed, what his race schedule is this season. Hopefully it will be more than just fulfilling domestique duties for his Slovenian team leader. Perhaps even an early-season shot at the ochre jersey in Adelaide?*
*Yes, Peter ‘Nostradamus’ Maniaty wrote this in early December, 2022.