For reigning Australian road race champion Miles Scotson, his emphatic victory at the national championships seems like a lifetime ago. After all, a lot has happened since the 23-year-old first donned the ‘green and gold’ jersey in Buninyong, Victoria.
Since standing tall atop the podium over two-time Aussie champ Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott) and 2011 Herald Sun Tour winner Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) back in January, the slender, 188cm Scotson has shouldered a solid workload during his neo-pro season with the BMC Racing Team. The three-time track world champion-turned professional road cyclist has nine starts under his belt in 2017, including four WorldTour races: Tour Down Under, Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, Milan-San Remo and most recently Paris-Roubaix.
While most Asia-Pacific cycling fans were focused on defending champion and compatriot Mathew Hayman’s return to Roubaix after last year becoming only the second Australian to win the ‘Hell of the North’ since Stuart O’Grady first did so a decade ago, Scotson was unassumingly flying under the radar and riding to a respectable finish in his race debut just 9 minutes 41 seconds behind BMC teammate and record-setting winner Greg van Avermaet.
“I was a little nervous going into Roubaix because I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” Scotson told Eurosport on Wednesday. “I was obviously hearing more stories about this event than any other, and people would talk about the carnage and chaos, but I just kept my head down and took it like any other race.”
But Roubaix is not like any other race – not at all. This year’s 257-kilometre parcours featured 29 leg-smashing, bike-breaking, soul-destroying cobbled sections totalling 55km of pavé alone.
Although the environment was completely foreign, it was a style Scotson was somewhat familiar with.
“While my own approach was the same as any other, the race was totally different from anything I've done before,” admitted Scotson, who credits his BMX background from age 7 to 15 for honing some of the very bike skills he needed to successfully negotiate pro cycling’s most treacherous course.
“It’s one of those roads where you shouldn't be riding road bikes,” he said. “It’s totally different from racing BMX, but it sometimes reminded me of it when we were fighting and bumping for position on the first cobbled sections and there’s dust everywhere and tight gravel corners – it’s a special race for sure.”
When asked if Roubaix was a race that suited him, the 2016 UCI individual time trial world championships bronze medalist was cautiously optimistic.
“I think so,” said Scotson. “When I was in that group coming in with 10k to go, I was really feeling the day, but I thought this is a race that can be good for me. I always had a strange feeling even before I had done the race that I was going to like it … and given my background and Roubaix’s aggressive style, it makes me think this is a race I want to target in the future.”
While the previous winner finished 11th overall – 12 seconds back in a pack of 16 riders that included Arnaud Démare (FDJ), André Greipel (Lotto Soudal), John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and retiring four-time winner Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors), Scotson said Hayman’s recent Roubaix success serves as inspiration.
“Seeing Australians succeed motivates me,” claimed Scotson. “I don't think I watched it when Stuart O’Grady won, but I saw the reply of the race and I watched Mat Hayman’s win last year while I was back home in Australia and that was pretty special.
“Their wins give me hope and when you also see how many times it took Mat and Stuart racing Paris-Roubaix before they finally won it, it gives you a pretty good idea what it really takes to conquer the cobbles – that plus a lot of luck.”
Good luck is not something that has been in abundance for Scotson this season, who has been plagued with injuries since the year began.
“I was a bit underdone heading into the Classics after a knee niggle at Cadel’s Race and a recent bout of tendonitis in my Achilles prior to San Remo,” explained Scotson. “But to be a part of a winning team and being satisfied with my ride, I’ve forgotten about that and moved on.”
For Scotson’s teammate, who had already claimed cobbled wins at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, the 31-year-old reigning Olympic champion fought his way back from a crash and a mid-race mechanical to record his first ‘Monument’ victory and the fastest time ever at the ‘Queen of the Classics’ with an average speed of 45.204 km/h to finish in 5 hours 41 minutes 7 seconds.
“Greg obviously has had an amazing season so far with four wins now, and if not for a crash at Flanders who knows,” said Scotson, who believes BMC’s success this season comes from its sole support of van Avermaet.
“We have an absolute leader on the team, in that there’s just one plan and that’s for Greg every time and with other teams they have a couple of different options – with us it’s just Greg.
“Everyone really gets behind him because he’s such a really good guy off the bike as well, and everyone just gets in there and rides for him,” he added. “Plus, he’s really reliable in finishing off the job when given the opportunity.”
With his first Roubaix done and dusted, attention now shifts to the remainder of the season which is scheduled to include Tour of the Alps (formerly Giro del Trentino), Tour of Yorkshire and Tour of California.
“For me it was just about getting Roubaix in the legs,” shared Scotson. “The team has been really good about not putting too much pressure on me in the first year. That said, every time I slip on the national jersey I put a bit of pressure on myself.
“Being a first-year pro has its challenges, from stepping up to a higher level of racing to living alone overseas,” he concluded. “You have to be stronger mentally than ever before and when I wear the ‘green and gold’ jersey I represent something more than just BMC or myself and that gives me extra confidence, pride and excitement at every race.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how the season unfolds and I’m optimistic about the future.”
Aaron S. Lee is a cycling correspondent for Eurosport, and contributor to VeloNews, Cyclist Magazine and 220 Triathlon …
Read the original article on Eurosport: Scotson: Australian champ optimistic following Roubaix result, BMC’s win