It was the biggest examination of his career but Dylan Sunderland has shown he can match it with the world’s elite, procuring a top 30 finish in his Tour Down Under debut.
Competing in his first World Tour event, the Inverell cyclist finished 30th overall (of 129) – two minutes and 11 seconds behind winner Daryl Impey – and 12th in the young rider classification.
It was an impressive effort after only making his debut as an elite-category rider at the National Road Championships earlier this month, although the 22-year old was by his own admission hoping to finish a bit higher.
“Personally I wanted to do a bit better than that but at the end of the day it is a field of the world’s best so it’s not a bad result,” he said.
Particularly on the climbs, which are his forte, he felt he didn’t perform at his peak.
“There’s a bit of room to improve there but it was a good benchmark to see how good the world class climbers are,” he said.
As he dips his toes into the elite ranks it was a lot about learning for Sunderland, and he said he will take a lot away from the arduous six-stage tour and racing alongside the world’s best riders.
“Just a lot of experience tactics wise, and just getting around the pro peleton. There’s a lot of little tricks that come with it,” he said.
Riding for the Uni-SA Australia team he said while it wasn’t the toughest race he has competed in in terms of terrain, it was in terms of the racing.
“There were a lot of guys that had really good form and were targetting the race and that made it a tough race,” he said.
He added: “These world tour teams are well-drilled and they work very well together. The national team, it’s usually hard for the riders as they don’t get as much respect from the professional riders.”
Starting in Adelaide, the 800-plus kilometre torture test finished for the first time in the race’s history on the famed Willunga Hill, which Sunderland said was a great experience.
“It was a pretty epic finish that one,” he said.
“The crowds were massive, four and five deep for the whole climb.”
Understandably feeling a bit sore, it’s now about recovery for Sunderland as he prepares to again suit up for the Uni-SA team in Saturday’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
“We’ll take a few days to get over that,” he said.
“It was a very draining tour, exceptionally hard.”
Fellow Inverell cyclist Heinrich Haussler finished back in 49th.