Dylan Sunderland will make his way south to Adelaide to tackle his first-ever Tour Down Under imbued with the confidence of a top 10 finish in the road race at the national championships in Ballarat.
Racing against the country’s best cyclists, the 22-year old acquitted himself admirably finishing fifth, three minutes and 24 seconds off winner Michael Freiberg.
It has him, he believes, in good shape for what is the premier race on the Australian cycling calendar.
“It’s shown that I’m in good form. I’ve got the fitness there. It’s just a matter of converting that. I think that race would have taken me up the next step in my form at the moment,” Sunderland said.
“It’s put me in a good place for the Tour Down Under.”
After riding for Team BridgeLane at the nationals, the Inverell cyclist will suit up in the white, green and gold colours of the UniSA-Australia team for the Tour, which gets underway in Adelaide on Tuesday.
“I’m super excited,” he said.
“It’s my first time racing the World Tour. It’s the highest level of the sport so very excited.”
The first event of the UCI World Tour the 2019 edition of the iconic race, which will feature some of the biggest names in the sport, is being touted as one of the toughest.
“They’ve actually said in media releases that it’s the hardest courses that they’ve ever had in terms of terrain,” Sunderland said.
That though isn’t fazing Sunderland. Quite the opposite in fact.
“[It] Suits me pretty well,” he said. His forte is the hills.
The Uni-SA team has been shaped around general classification riders like himself and BridgeLane team-mate Chris Harper, who finished second at the nationals.
Stepping up to the elite division from the under-23’s last year, where he finished fourth in the road race and picked up silver in the criterium, Sunderland was pretty happy with his performance.
His only lament was missing Cameron Meyer’s move when he got across to the lead group of four, who had broken away about 30km into the 185.6km.
“Ideally I should have been on that one, but that’s just racing and you can’t cover everything,” he said.
He added: “It was pretty tough. It’s a long day.”
“(But) I actually coped with it pretty well and was feeling pretty good at the finish so I was kind of disappointed I wasn’t in the front with the way I was feeling.”
The Tour will comprise six stages and for the first time in the race’s history finish on the famed Willunga Hill, regarded as the toughest climb.
Sunderland has also been named in the KordaMentha Real Estate Australian Team for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on January 26 and 27.
Fellow Inverell cyclist Heinrich Haussler will meanwhile wear the red jersey of the Bahrain-Merida Pro Cycling Team in the Tour.