When the UniSA-Australia national team was announced for next week’s Santos Tour Down Under there were a couple of notable omissions from the list. Perhaps the most striking omission was that of Cyrus Monk, the 21 year old from the Drapac EF team who took an impressive solo victory in Saturday’s U23 men’s road race at the Australian Road National Championships. It was a victory that would normally have secured Monk a space on the UniSA squad.
In the days since that victory it has become clear that Monk isn’t eligible to race in the Tour Down Under, following a rule change at the UCI and what UniSA selector Brad McGee described to CyclingTips as a “gap in communication” at Cycling Australia. Monk took the time to speak to CyclingTips about his omission from the UniSA squad and why he isn’t as upset as he might have been.
CyclingTips: Congratulations on an awesome ride on Saturday — it was thrilling to watch. I guess there must be a bit of mixed emotions at the moment though after the high of that day and then the low of missing out on TDU selection?
Cyrus Monk: Yeah, it’s a bit shit now, at this point. But yeah, I can’t really complain too much because last Friday I didn’t have a spot on the team and now I still don’t have a spot on the team but I’ve got an under 23 national championship. It’s still better than it was before the championships.
What’s your understanding of the situation and what happened? Were you aware of the testing pool issues before the championships or was it afterwards that you were told?
I knew before that it could be difficult [to get a ride at TDU] with the fact that we’re a development team for Education First – Drapac. But we resolved that issue previously and that was all ready to go, given we’re under different paying agents and that I wouldn’t be racing in the development team jersey at the race if I was was to race for UniSA anyway.
Basically I accepted that if I had a good result [at Nationals] then I’d probably be able to get a ride and then it was only on Sunday night that news came through, from Bennelong[-SwissWellness] actually, that this new issue had presented itself, this new rule with the UCI.
After finding out about that, Bennelong were initially disappointed I’d heard because they wouldn’t be able to pick the riders they wanted to pick. And then everyone — this was a group of us hearing about this from my team — and they were sort of thinking that’s rubbish for Bennelong and then I sort of realised for myself that I’m also not on the whereabouts program. And so at that point I went “Ah, crap. If I can’t resolve this then I won’t get a spot on the team either.”
From then on basically I always knew it was going to be a tough task to actually get around that ruling and get on to the team.
I would have thought you’d be part of the whereabouts program through your stagiaire ride with Cannondale-Drapac last year?
No. So stagiaires are exempt from being on whereabouts. So initially when I got to Girona the Cannondale-Drapac team manager said ‘You’ll probably have to go on whereabouts, here’s all the forms. Try and get those back to me by the end of the day. We’ll do all that.’ And then all those forms went to WADA and they said ‘You don’t need to put the stagiaires on Whereabouts — they’re exempt from that.’
At the time I thought I was really lucky because I wasn’t going to have to fill in all of my … wherever I wanted to sleep that night for the rest of the year. And then in hindsight it would have been a blessing in disguise if I was put on that because then I would have been eligible to race in this team.
And by the time you found out about the rule there was literally nothing you could do, right? It was out of your control.
Yeah. Even if I had known [earlier in the season] there’s nothing I can do because you can’t choose … That’s sort of the thing that I’ve noticed with the reporting of it. I couldn’t have chosen to be on the program regardless. I looked into the rule and you can’t nominate yourself to be on the whereabouts program or be part of the regular testing protocol. You have to be in a Pro Continental team or above, or on a national team.
So the national selectors could, in theory, pick a huge national team so that there’s a lot of people on the [testing pool]. In reality, for me, I wouldn’t have been on that selection process, likely, at that point anyway. In mid November I hadn’t had a big string of results before that or anything so it was unlikely that they would have been thinking ‘We should put Cyrus on this in case he needs to race for UniSA.’
Basically whatever eventuated I don’t think there’s anyway I could have ended up on that program unless I was racing for a Pro Continental team on a full contract. Which, unfortunately … it sort of wrecks the point of the UniSA team because it’s now basically only available for ex-pros or national track and mountain bike riders, essentially.
You sound a lot more calm about missing out on the team than I thought you might be. Is it just the fact that it’s out of your hands and there’s nothing you can do about it so you just move on?
Yeah, essentially. So Sunday night I was pretty disappointed when I worked out what would happen. In reality, yeah, there’s nothing I can do about it and I sort of realise that there’s nothing I could do to change it. And Cycling Australia, once they realised they’d made the initial mistake, did everything they could with the UCI to get an exemption so that I could race.
So yeah, there’s not really anything or anyone I can be angry at. And the reality is I’ve just won a national championship. It will be pretty disappointing watching next week instead of racing but that was always the plan anyway, to go and watch the race.
So it hasn’t changed anything for me really, it was just for that little while there I thought I was guaranteed a spot. I’m not too disappointed because I’ve obviously just had the biggest result of my career so far.
How much opportunity will you get to wear the green and gold bands this year?
It’s got to be an under 23 race which … that would depend on national team selection as well. So I’m hoping now that with that result that I’ll be considered for the national team in future. I’ve never been able to represent Australia before so I would really like to be able to do that.
But obviously there’s really good competition in the under 23s and there’s plenty of other riders that have shown that they’ve got results in the past at that level. I’m hoping at some point I’ll be able to race something like the under 23 one-day races in Belgium and some of the big under 23 tours, so obviously the Baby Giro and Tour de l’Avenir are those ones. But obviously there’s still better climbers than me in the under 23 ranks and that selection should depend on more than just one day in January, which I understand.
So hopefully I will get to race some races where I can wear the bands. But obviously it’s still just a big result regardless so I’m pretty happy.
What’s up next for you? Are you racing the Jayco Herald Sun Tour?
Yeah, so I’ll be racing Herald Sun Tour with the Drapac EF team. That was always the original plan anyway. I’ve just taken a few days easy since Nationals and then I’ll get back into training for that and hopefully I can get a result there.