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Patrick Lane is as talented, hard working and intelligent as they come. He also has that little bit of mongrel in him that completes him as an fantastic bike racer. But after a promising development path through the Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) and Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), his career hasn’t exactly gone to plan.
When Cycling Australia announced the seven-rider UniSA-Australia line-up for next week’s Santos Tour Down Under, it was no great surprise to see several riders rewarded for their impressive performances at the Australian Road Nationals.
Chris Hamilton and Lucas Hamilton made the list after their 1-2 in the U23 men’s road race, Sean Lake confirmed his talent with a podium in the elite men’s time trial, and Pat Lane earned his place with a hard-fought third place in the elite men’s road race.
For Lane, being selected for the UniSA-Australia team represents something of a breakthrough, long after it was established that the Melbourne local had some talent on the bike.
“I’ve spent a lot of years really trying to make that team and it was a massive focus of mine,” Lane told CyclingTips. “To finally be there is just incredible.”
After impressing national selectors as an 18-year-old Lane was picked to represent Australia at the 2009 Junior World Championships in Russia. For the next three years he would ride for the Jayco-AIS setup, gaining international experience and winning a couple of races alongside the likes of Rohan Dennis, Luke Durbridge, Michael Matthews, Michael Hepburn and Damian Howson.
But in 2013, after finishing his apprenticeship with the U23 AIS WorldTour Academy, Lane joined an Italian amateur team (Team Hoppla) with friend and teammate Calvin Watson. It was then that things took a turn for the worse.
Watson told Cyclingnews in an interview: “The location on the map was fantastic but the other things that went with it weren’t so fantastic. It’s always hard to integrate into another culture but when there’s also other issues going on in a team house situation it’s not the sort of place you want to be. After a few months it was basically time to get ourselves out of there.”
Watson’s career eventually progressed as he got a two-year contract with the Trek Factory Racing team, but Lane’s career options were limited.
In late 2013 he joined the Azerbaijan-registered Continental team Baku for 12 months. Looking back at this move, and the decision to race in the Italian amateur ranks, Lane admits he didn’t do himself any favours.
“They were just terrible moves for me,” Lane said. “I gave away maybe two years when I needed to be at my best.”
In 2015 Lane returned to Australia to race with the African Wildlife Safaris team – a move through which he “sort of got back into enjoying cycling”. A year on he’s with the Avanti IsoWhey team; a setup led by Andrew Christie-Johnston which is famed for its ability to help great domestic riders take the next step in their careers.
And it’s Lane’s ride for Avanti IsoWhey in yesterday’s road race at the Australian National Championships that could have re-launched the 24-year-old’s chances of reaching the highest levels of the sport.
While Jack Bobridge (Trek-Segafredo) was off the front solo, and Cameron Meyer (Dimension Data) and Rohan Dennis (BMC) were chasing in the hope of a podium place, Lane set off alone from an ever-thinning peloton in the closing laps, enjoying plenty of crowd support along the way.
“I waited till about three [laps] to go or something and everyone was pretty tired so I thought I’d give it a go,” Lane said. “Being from Melbourne and … not one of the big big teams like Orica, I think the crowd really get behind you which is great. It was a massive buzz going up that hill having so many people cheering and yelling my name was really nice.”
Lane bridged across to Rohan Dennis, who had been dropped by Cameron Meyer, before calling in a favour from his old teammate.
Back in 2012, Lane and Dennis were riding together on the Jayco-AIS team in the U23 Nationals road race. A crash at the Bay Crits a week earlier had left Lane injured and so he decided to ride in support of Dennis instead. He would spend several laps on the front, riding for his teammate and, ultimately, helping Dennis win the title.
Four years on, in yesterday’s race, Lane was keen for some support in return.
“When I got across to him I tried to get Rohan to give me a few turns and he was pretty well spent I think. He’d spent a lot of energy trying to make the race,” Lane explained. “And I reminded him of the time I rode a few laps on the front for him and gave him a bit of a fire-up.
“He came good for a while and gave me a few good turns which got me a little bit further away from the group which was great. It was really nice of a guy of his calibre to remember that I’d helped him and return the favour a bit.”
For Rohan Dennis, a stage-winner and yellow-jersey-wearer at the Tour de France (not to mention his Tour Down Under and USA Pro Challenge wins), a third place at Nationals would have been of little significance in the context of his career. For Pat Lane, that third place could be the start of an exciting new chapter.
Racing the Tour Down Under will give Pat Lane a chance to show what he’s capable of on the world stage and, hopefully, show that he’s ready to take the next step up.
“That’s always the dream, to be racing the big races in Europe,” Lane said. “If I can do that I’ll be very happy.”
History shows that he’s in the right team to make those dreams a reality.
“[I’m] really happy to be with Avanti this year,” Lane said. “It looks like we’ll have a good program with some international races and if I can keep improving how I have with their backing then hopefully I’ll be on the right track.”