For the second time inside of a month, Australia has seen a promising GC prospect take a lump.
Earlier in November, Campbell Flakemore stunned the Australian cycling community by deciding to retire from the sport after one season with BMC Racing. The 2014 world under-23 time trial champion, who was tapped by Cadel Evans as a potential Tour de France winner, simply said his heart wasn’t in it.
This week, Orica-GreenEdge announced its climbing prospect Robert Power will be forced to sit out what was supposed to be his WorldTour debut in 2016 due to an ongoing knee injury. The 20-year-old climber already missed the second half of the 2015 season with what’s been called “bone marrow oedema syndrome,” described by Orica as “a form of bone stress with an MRI appearance similar to a bone bruise but not related to trauma and without obvious explanation.”
Dr. Peter Barnes, Orica’s medical director, said he had never seen an injury like it in 40 years, and said the only cure is to keep Powers off his bike until he recovers. And that could be months or even years.
“Rob has been experiencing pain while climbing and doing strength endurance efforts,” Dr. Barnes said in a team release. “The frustrating thing for him as a young athlete is that he can walk, run and jump with no pain at all and is perfectly normal to clinical examination.”
Orica-GreenEdge sport director Matt White said Power has time on his side, and said the team will be saving him a place at the table.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing for any athlete to have an injury that sidelines them from competing, but a lot of guys don’t turn professional when they are 20, 21 or 22 years of age so it’s not going to have a huge affect on his career at all,” White said. “And then once it has followed its due course and he is ready, he will be straight back into the team.”
The latest setbacks come as Australia begins to look for its next generation of leaders. Evans retired at the beginning of the 2015 season, while Michael Rogers said the 2016 campaign would be his last. Simon Gerrans, also of Orica and who has a contract through 2017, is 35. Richie Porte, 30, links up with BMC Racing next year in a bid to have outright leadership in the major tours. Many believe BMC’s Rohan Dennis, 25, could also develop into a grand tour rider.
Younger riders are already stepping up, such as Michael Matthews, 25, and Caleb Ewan, 21, but they are both sprinters, leaving a hole in the Australian peloton among younger GC prospects.