International bike racing has rarely seen such a rich vein of young riders as it’s seeing right now. The most recent grand tours have been won by young riders from Slovenia, Colombia, Great Britain and Ecuador; but behind that list of Europeans and South Americans is a coming generation of Australians waiting to succeed Cadel Evans, their only compatriot to have won the Tour de France (already 10 years ago). Among that group of élite Aussies are Jai Hindley (second at the 2020 Giro d’Italia), Jack Haig (fifth at this year’s Dauphiné), Ben O’Connor (currently fifth in the Tour), Chris Harper (fourth at this year’s UAE Tour)…and Lucas Hamilton (fourth at this year’s Paris–Nice).
By John Wilcockson
Among the performances that earned Hamilton a place on Team BikeExchange in his debut Tour was 25th place at the 2019 Giro; and he was lying 15th at the 2020 Giro (two places ahead of eventual winner Tao Geoghegan Hart) after nine stages when his team pulled out because of a coronavirus case. His remit at this year’s Tour was to do as well as possible on GC and shoot for stages with teammates Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves. The three climbers were hoping to do well in the Pyrénées—until Hamilton and Yates were involved in the mass pileup on stage 13. Loose gravel on a fast downhill was the cause of the crash, with the two Team BikeExchange men forced to quit; Hamilton had a dislocated right shoulder among other injuries.
The crash was an unfortunate ending for Hamilton, who had shown promising climbing form in his two preparation races. On the mountaintop finish at Thyon 2000 in the Tour de Romandie, he finished a close-up fourth to Mike Woods, O’Connor and Geraint Thomas; and he was fourth on the summit finish at Leukerbad in the Tour de Suisse behind Richard Carapaz, Jakob Fuglsang and Woods. He was lying sixth overall in that Swiss tour when a bout of gastroenteritis in the team stopped him riding the remaining stages. And now a crash has ended his initial Tour hopes—but he is still hoping to represent Australia in the Olympic Games road race on July 24.
As with Haig, Hindley and O’Connor, the Australians have high hopes for Hamilton at upcoming grand tours. When The Guardian last year talked to the respected Tasmanian team manager Andrew Christie-Johnston—who helped develop Richie Porte (third in the 2020 tour)—he compared Hamilton to the Tour and Giro winner, Colombia’s Egan Bernal. “When Bernal won the  Tour de l’Avenir, Lucas was fourth…and not that far behind,” he said. “While Bernal has gone on in leaps and bounds, Lucas has taken a bit longer—that doesn’t mean he can’t close the gap.”
In his fourth season with his Australian WorldTour team, Hamilton was hoping that his Tour debut would produce some positive results. But that dream ended in that nasty stage 13 crash. The next day on Instagram, he wrote: “Brutal day yesterday, disappointed to leave the Tour like this, onto the next one.”
The Tour’s Lost Boys
In the first week 19 riders dropped out; another 20 left the race by the second rest day, making a total of 39 abandons (see “Into the Third Week: Another 20 Lost Boys”). Stage 17 saw one more rider drop out, Steven Kruijswijk of Jumbo-Visma, who started feeling ill on the second rest day, was dropped early in the stage and climbed off. So, the Tour’s 184-strong starting field has been reduced to 144.