Don Kirkham and Iddo Munro were the first ever Australians to participate in Le Tour, way back in 1814. Since then a further 48 Australians have also been a part of the great race. There are some amazing names in amongst these elite 50 riders.
Cycling Australia have set a panel of experts the task of naming a 9-man Tour de France team from these 50 riders. But to further complicate - they have split the team into 6 separate roles to be filled!!
So here is my Australian Tour de France Team of the Century, as per the criteria laid out by Cycling Australia.
Two General Classification riders
You cannot overlook our only Tour de France winner for this role - so my first pick is Cadel Evans. As the second overall rider, legendary Australian cyclist Sir Hubert 'Oppy' Opperman, who raced twice in the late 1920's & early 1930's, would have to be in the team as well.
The great Oppy
Two Domestiques for the GC riders
This is possibly the hardest class of rider for me to pick. I would lean towards Phil Anderson (who came 5th overall twice in the 1980's), along with Russell Mockridge (who raced in 1955, and was tragically killed before he could show off his huge potential).
Phil Anderson - so wrong but so right...!!
This one is easy!! The greatest Australian Tour de France sprinter of all time has to be Robbie McEwen. Twelve stage wins, and three green jersey classification victories, makes him the best choice for this role.
Cadel (l) and Robbie (r), after another Tour de France...
Two Leadout Men for the sprinter
Its somewhat ironic that Robbie McEwen is the sort of sprinter that really doesn't need any leadout men! Nonetheless, he has the luxury of two domestiques to deliver him to the line.
Probably the best leadout man of the modern era is Mark Renshaw, so he is my first selection here. The second selection is much harder, and there are probably half-a-dozen choices that could equally work - but I have to make a decision, and will go with Adam Hansen.
Adam Hansen climbing Alpe d'Huez, riding thru 'Dutch corner'...
A rider who can sneak stage wins in all-terrain. This is another easy choice from the modern generation of Australian cyclists - Simon Gerrans. He can win stages in a sprint, or in all types of hilly terrain. A great wildcard in any team.
One Team Captain
A rider who can galvanize the team, who can draw them together to achieve a goal. And a rider who can lead by example in the mountains and the sprint train. For me, this has to be Michael Rogers.
After watching the way he marshalled his team in the documentary "Chasing Legends" (back when Rogers was racing for HTC-HighRoad), I can't go passed him as a team captain. Just as an aside - if you haven't seen the film, do yourself a favour and get your hands on a copy!
'Dodger' leading the Tinkoff-Saxo train...
OK, so this isn't technically a category!! But there were two riders who I really wanted to pick but couldn't find room for. The first was Bradley McGee - a cycling legend who could ride in the mountains and leadout the sprints, or be team captain. I loved watching him race.
The second is Baden Cooke. An incredibly aggressive sprinter, who 'stole' a fourth green jersey from Robbbie McEwen in 2003.
So that's my team: Evans, Opperman, Anderson, Mockridge, McEwen, Renshaw, Hansen, Gerrans, and Rogers. Very arguable in almost all selections!! I'm looking forward to sitting around with friends and arguing my selections over a few beers...