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by Shane Stokes
August 21, 2015
Photography by Matt de Neef
Rider agent Jason Bakker has given a strong endorsement of the potential of the young Australian rider Robert Power, saying that the future Orica GreenEdge competitor is in line for a very strong pro career.
Power shone in last year’s Tour de l’Avenir and also took victory in the overall standings in the Oceania Tour.
He was confirmed as a future Orica rider in January of this year, and will begin his pro career in 2016.
“He is a very, very exciting prospect,” Bakker told CyclingTips.
“He’s still very young, he is 20. But he came second in the Tour de L’Avenir last year despite being pretty much the youngest guy in the field. Despite that, I think he was only something like 20 seconds off the top spot on the podium.
“He won’t do it this year, he has injured his knee and he is recovering from that at the moment. I think he will probably put the cue on the rack for the rest of the year to prepare for his first pro season next year. But he won in Italy a couple of weeks ago, the GC in the Giro della Valle d’Aosta. He is a very good rider, he is very exciting.”
Bakker said that while Power hasn’t raced much thus far at the top level, he did compete in the Santos Tour Down Under – where he was the youngest rider – and also the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. He will accumulate much more experience next season as part of Orica GreenEdge.
“Potential is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?” he said. “It all matters when you get to the big show. I think he is someone that Australian cycling fans can look forward to following in the future with real excitement and anticipation.”
Bakker has a background in cricket but became involved in cycling in 2009 when Cadel Evans asked him to represent him.
He has remained with the now-retired rider ever since, including his period as Tour de France champion. While it is far to early to know if Power will go on to challenge in the same way, his general classification potential is very exciting.
In a long interview with CyclingTips about rider agent roles, Bakker said that he deliberately doesn’t have many cyclists on his books. However he is excited to work with Power and believes that he is one of the biggest young talents in Australian sport.
Robert Power in the purple jersey of best young rider in the 2014 Tour of Azerbaijan
Being Australian, starting off his pro career with Orica GreenEdge seems a logical step. Bakker said it’s not about nationality, though, but rather about how the team nurtures talent.
“GreenEdge are a very good team in the sense that they don’t place unrealistic expectations on their young riders,” he said. “I am sure all teams are good, but certainly dealing with GreenEdge and Caleb Ewen and Rob going forward and knowing what Shayne’s approach is, they look to reduce as much pressure as possible off young riders. And I think that is fantastic.”
The squad has helped develop the young British climbers Simon and Adam Yates and Bakker knows that Power will slot in behind them next season. He’ll likely be required to ride for them; he doesn’t see that being an issue.
“Rob is a really level-headed young bloke. I think he is very ambitious, but not outwardly,” he said. “He has got terrific inward ambition. He is going there knowing that he has got to earn his stripes and learn the game, so to speak.
“I would still like to think he can make an impact next year. A bit like the Yates guys who did a solid job in their first year…Adam won the Tour of Turkey. So, yeah, I’d like to think that Rob can achieve some results next year. I don’t know if they will be wins or not, but I think he can certainly show himself in good stead, assuming he comes back well from his injury and he is well prepared.”
Bakker noted that Power has been dealing with a knee injury and predicted – accurately – that he would not start the Tour de l’Avenir as a result. He would have been a favourite for the race, but instead will allow his knee issue to recover.
“It gives him some time to be prepared for next year, in terms of finding an appropriate apartment and furnishing,” said Bakker, acknowledging that a slightly quieter build-up to his pro debut could be beneficial. “All those things that people don’t think about. You just don’t rock up on the board next year, come back from Australia to Europe and then start.
“I think we will use the time productively. If he is really fit next year, I think he can really give a good account of himself, learn and just experience it first-hand.”
Also see: Interview with Robert Power: a star on the rise