Lucas Hamilton Q&A: On signing with Orica-Scott and his excellent 2017 season

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An announcement from Orica-Scott today confirmed that 21-year-old Lucas Hamilton will join the Australian WorldTour outfit from 2018. Hamilton is the third rider from this year’s Mitchelton-Scott Continental development squad to sign with a WorldTour team, following Michael Storer and Jai Hindley who will both ride with Sunweb from 2018.

In the lead-up to Hamilton’s contract announcement, CyclingTips caught up with the Victorian to reflect on his signing with Orica-Scott for three years, and on his excellent season in the U23 ranks which has included a host of strong results in Tours and one-day races alike. The following interview has been edited for length and fluency.

Story Highlights

  • Hamilton has signed with Orica-Scott for three years.
  • He’ll likely base himself in Girona, following in the footsteps of many other young Aussies.
  • He’s “extremely happy” with his 2017 season and the results he’s achieved.
  • He’ll ride for the Australian U23 team in the World Championships road race in Bergen, Norway later this month.

CyclingTips: Congratulations on signing with Orica-Scott – very exciting news. How does it feel to be making the step up to the pro ranks?

Lucas Hamilton: I’m really happy to sign with Orica. I think it just naturally is a team that really suits me. And obviously I’ve always wanted to become a professional bike rider so I’m really happy to be able to be in this position. I’m excited about the next few years with them.

Whereabouts are you going to be basing yourself?

I’m not 100% but I think I’ll base myself in Girona. I’ve still got to sort a few things out at the end of this year but that’s where I’m looking to try and set up, for the first year anyway.

And what’s the appeal of Girona? Is it just the fact there are so many Aussies there, and so many riders?

Yeah I have a couple mates there, friends who I’ve already had a fair bit to do with. First year stepping up you sort of want to try and surround yourself with people who you know and who can support you a little bit. And also they’re people who have had to do the same thing so their experience in it is second to none. So I think just being around those sort of people will make the transition a little bit easier.

So guys like Alex Edmondson and others that have through the AIS Academy like you?

Yeah, Alex Edmondson, Rob Power all those sort of guys are probably ones who I know better and yeah they’re really good with it.

It’s been a long and successful season for Lucas Hamilton who is pictured here riding for UniSA-Australia at the Tour Down Under.

From the outside it seems like you’ve had a really strong season. Have you been happy with what you’ve achieved?

Yeah. If you’d asked me at the start of the year about the position I am in now I’d be extremely happy, and I am extremely happy. I think with the team we’ve had this year, personally I’ve just really enjoyed it, to be honest. We’ve all worked really well together and every race we’ve been rocking up and we’ve been getting results. We’ve just worked really well together.

I think that’s for sure one of the biggest reasons why we keep getting results is because we’re just such a … we all get along really well. We live together, we train together we do nearly everything together and sometimes I think people can crack under that. But for us it just seemed to make us more tight-knitted. And then when we rocked up to races it’s been result after result.

So yeah I’m really happy. But I think it’s been a team effort — it hasn’t just been me just standing up on the podium. Obviously Jai [Hindley] and [Michael] Storer have got their fair share of results as well. So it’s been a really good year.

How have you worked out who you’ll ride for in each race? Obviously the three of you are all capable of winning a bunch of races in your own right.

It’s a tough one. Our styles of racing are sort of very similar as well — we’re probably more based around hill climbing and GC riders. So it’s not an easy task to do. But I think this year it’s sort of just worked itself out.

I think one of us can’t always be in winning form or result form so as soon as one of us knew that maybe we weren’t 100% there, we’d just pull for the bloke who was. And I think eventually then it just all kept working itself out that we were rocking up to races and there was probably always going to be a clear person who we needed to pull for.

Lucas Hamilton (far left) was part of the UniSA team that won the teams classification at the Tour Down Under this year. Jai Hindley (second from left) and Michael Storer (centre) were also part of that team.

The three of us just get along and also we’re not … everyone’s pretty happy to chip in when they’ve needed to chip in. Honesty has been a big thing and to be honest [there] hasn’t really been any issues. It’s just really worked itself out.

You had an excellent run through April and May where you got a bunch of podiums in Italian races and then in Belgium as well at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. What was that period like for you? Were you happy to keep reaching the podium, or were you disappointed to keep getting so close but miss the win?

There was a race, [GP Palio del] Recioto which was sort of the last of the Italian one-dayers and it really suited me. It had a lot of climbing and it was just this one-day race and it’s pretty renowned within the U23 peloton. And I got second, Neilson Powless outsprinted me, and that was probably the only time I was fairly disappointed that I couldn’t pull off a win. And that was at the end of all my seconds and thirds.

But I think at the time I was just pretty happy to be up there, you know. We were doing races that really suited me and then to be up there in every race … I was pretty happy with it.

The first half of the year was always sort of building towards the Baby Giro and if I had a look at all those races I was the only one who was able to [perform well across the board] … Because they were really close together — we had Liege on the Saturday and then Recioto and [Giro del] Belvedere on the Monday and Tuesday — so for me it was a little bit of confidence as well because I knew that I could back up each day and I wasn’t getting worse and worse. And one-dayers are raced a little bit different to tours so you’ve got fresh guys coming in. So it’s full gas all day.

I didn’t get to held up on it. I just kept doing what I was doing and knew that it was a good sign come June.

It was your first time doing the Baby Giro. How did you find it?

I really enjoyed it. I think it’s sort of classic Italian racing. It just had a bit of everything. It didn’t have any days where you could just … what do they call them in the Tour, transition days? There was a lot of days with really short uphill finishes which tend to not create big gaps but it can create a lot of small gaps. And I think that just made it a little bit exciting. Everyday you had to go in and be 100% on the ball, ready for anything to happen.

I really enjoyed it and I think as a team we really enjoyed it as well. You couldn’t just be the strongest rider there; you had to pretty crafty too I think.

You were second there overall. How did you feel about that one? Were you happy with that too, or was that disappointing to have been so close?

Yeah that was pretty disappointing, to be honest, because I lost it by nine seconds. On one of the days — talking about being on the ball — in the last three k a crash happened and I got caught up in it. [Because] it was in the final 3K I thought I’d get bunch time, so I’ve just rolled in.

And then apparently someone in the last five metres has dropped the wheel and actually split the peloton in two. And the second group, because it’s just a flat sprinters finish, was one or two riders bigger than the front group, so they had to give the time of the second group to everyone that crashed. So I actually got dobbed 16 seconds.

That one was actually pretty … it took me a little bit to sort of move on from it. I won the time trial there which, to be honest was a big bonus for me because that’s something that I’ve not always had the greatest confidence in. So I think I come out of it a little bit disappointed but I was happier than I was disappointed. If I could look back and change a few things, sure, but it’s all in hindsight so I can only learn from it.

Hamilton on his way to winning the Baby Giro time trial.

You had a great win at the Tour Alsace which must have been pretty satisfying?

Yeah for sure. It’s definitely my biggest win so far. That’s probably the proudest one for the year because it’s a pretty big French race and the team … the way we rode it on the real climbing day was just pretty special I thought. So pretty cool to pull that off.

The Tour de l’Avenir was the big one. What were you hoping for going into that race? And were you happy coming out of that with fourth overall?

Yeah. I think l’Avenir this year had a lot of sprint stages and a lot of stages where it could potentially just blow to pieces or [have] crashes and whatnot. Obviously you go into l’Avenir trying to push for your best form and the best result you can get, but when I was going into l’Avenir I was purely just focussing on trying to get through the first six days.

I knew if you could through the first six days, you’re going to climb as you climb — if you’re climbing well you’re climbing well, but if you’re not climbing well you’re not. I didn’t really think about what I wanted at the end because I was just sort of trying to focus on getting through without any damage, to the rest day [ed. after stage 6].

That first climbing day it was basically a straight uphill finish so as soon as that day was over I thought ‘Yeah, I could probably pull off a podium.’ [ed. Hamilton was fourth on the stage and moved up to fourth overall.] So I’m a little bit disappointed to miss the podium but it is what it is. A couple things didn’t really go our way. [It’s a] pretty tough tour so there’s not really much you can do.

So I was happy with fourth — I’m not too disappointed but I was only 19 or 16 seconds off the podium. So that would have been nice but I’m not too disappointed. A fourth out of l’Avenir … the racing is such a high quality there. It’s not easy to pull off a top 10 or top 15 or whatever — it’s a tough race for sure.

What do you make of guys like l’Avenir stage winner Pavel Sivakov and overall winner Egan Bernal? They seem to be impressive talents.

Yeah, for sure. Sivakov I’ve raced against most this season but l’Avenir was the first time I’ve raced Bernal. Yeah, he was impressive. He was really impressive. He was just [in] a league of his own to be honest, at l’Avenir.

His team rode it every day and then there was a day there where he was fully isolated coming into the final climb and he rode the front on the downhill and flat and then just followed wheels on the climb. But he just looked like he was floating. So he was super impressive.

The last time I raced him was at l’Avenir last year when he was first year. But I think that also shows just he’s a class above and he’s been doing pro racing now for two years. I think he’s just got that strength that a lot of us probably don’t have.

So what’s the rest of your season looking like? I assume you’re going to Norway for the Road World Championships? [ed. This interview took place before the Road Worlds announcement was made. Hamilton has since been confirmed for the Australian U23 team.]

The team hasn’t been picked yet so who knows but I think at the moment I will probably head to Norway for the road race. And then we’ve got Piccolo Lombardia [ed. the U23 Il Lombardia] a few days after Worlds. And then it’s pretty well … I’ll probably have a bit of a break but then I’m doing Tour of Hainan at the end of October into November and then that’s pretty well it.

So I think I’ve only got three races so not much left, but obviously Worlds and Lombardia are pretty big races so we’ll be rocking up to them trying to get a result as well.

It all makes for a pretty long season doesn’t it, given you started way back at the Road Nationals in the first week of January?

Yeah it does. We’re not jumping out of our skin as much as we were when we first come over at the start of the season. But it’s pretty hard not to be motivated for a race like Worlds, so you get through it.

You’ve obviously had a taste of racing at the WorldTour level, having done the Tour Down Under a couple of times. What are you expecting from the step up from the U23 ranks to the WorldTour generally?

To be honest I’m not really expecting anything but I think I’m going in just wanting to learn, really. I don’t expect to get any results or to be in a position to be a leader. I think I just want to go in and try and learn as much from the guys who are in the team. Especially with the way Orica is now — [Esteban] Chaves and the Yates brothers [Simon and Adam], they’re a big GC team so I think there’s a lot there to be learned and I think with guys that sort of suit my personality as well.

Hamilton goes on the attack at the 2016 Santos Tour Down Under while riding for the UniSA-Australia national team.

I’m really looking forward to just taking in as much as I can in the first year. With the racing obviously I’ll try and be in the best form, best shape I can. But you know I think it’s a year where I just need to try and gain as much knowledge and keep learning obviously through the whole first [part] of that contract because it’s a pretty big step and it’s not an easy one.

I’m looking forward to it. I will just be going in to try and, off the bike and on the bike, learn as much as possible off the guys who have been doing it for years.

I guess that’s the same as what the team will be looking for too, right? For you to get racing in your legs and to get acclimatised?

Yeah exactly. I don’t think there will be any pressure for me to do anything. I’ll obviously help out the team and do what I’m there to do, which is ride a bike pretty quickly. But I think it’s just a step in the process, to try and learn as much from the guys in the team who are now pretty experienced and pretty handy bike riders.

Looking further ahead, what races would you love to be contesting or love to be winning at some point in your career?

I think Grand Tours, for sure, would be something I’d love to do. I love tour racing, it’s something I really enjoy and it’s probably something I’m preferred at. Also some of those big one-dayers like Liege and Lombardia at the end of the year. The real hilly one-dayers, I reckon they’re just as fun as it gets. Just full gas for one day.

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