With Caleb Ewan arguably holding the title as the world’s fastest man on a bicycle, Australia doesn’t require a new sprinting superstar to appear on the scene.
But emerging from two developing years into the spotlight with a hat-trick of fine performances and near-misses at the Tour of Oman, Kaden Groves is raising the possibility of two Aussie riders contesting bunch sprints across the globe.
Twenty-three-year-old Groves, who is in his third season at BikeExchange-Jayco, scored two second-places and one third at the Oman race in February, just beaten to top honours by Mark Cavendish and Fernando Gaviria.
His name was a new sighting for many (although he did score 10 top-10s in 2021), but a vindication of the work he continues to put in pursuit of his goals. “I wasn’t surprised, but it definitely helped a lot with my and the team’s confidence,” he tells Cycling Weekly.
“The last two years I haven’t had any strikes on the board, and being unknown it was nice to get the consistency to finish in the top three a few times. Oman isn’t the biggest race, but it’s these small victories that will set us up, and being in the company of Fernando and Mark does lift my confidence.”
BikeExchange-Jayco’s winter signing of Dylan Groenewegen has repositioned them as a bona fide sprint team, and the smart money is that it will be the Dutchman who will be scoring the eye-catching victories as opposed to Groves in the coming months.
But that allows Groves to continue his development, and also allows the formation of a young and inexperienced sprint team working for Groves to mature, too, in what he admits is “definitely the second-tier sprint team”.
“We have a good group of young guys and we’re getting to know and learn what we each other can do,” Groves said. “To do some early-season half-decent leadouts is good for us, and it motivates us all. Sprinting is not just about who is the fastest, but how you position and organise yourself.
“Campbell Stewart and Kelland O’Brien are my two last guys, and Oman was their first race together. From day one I put Campbell in charge and it went well.”
Groves was a late convert to cycling, only taking up the sport in his early teenage years as a way of recovering from an ACL injury. Before then, he was a motocross rider, competing on the junior national circuit in Australia.
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“I was at a pretty decent level at motocross,” he says. “But after I took up cycling I never went back to it as I was so keen early on and committed full-gas to it.
“I think motocross is a different sport physically - it’s completely anaerobic - but there are aspects that allowed me to transition to cycling easier, such as being in the bunch and bike handling.”
The first race Groves ever watched was the 2016 Paris-Roubaix, a folkloric edition that was won by Mathew Hayman. “That was insane,” he remembers. “It’s crazy how things turned out as he is now a sports director here.”
It was obvious from the beginning where Groves’ cycling direction lay. “In Australia we do a lot of crit racing, in fact the majority are crits,” he adds. “I was winning bunch sprints early on and got to a decent level quite quickly, so it was clear to see that my strengths were sprinting at that time.”
Following a few weeks in the Middle East - he raced as part of Groenwegen’s leadout at the UAE Tour in what is expected to be the pair’s only race together this season - Groves is back in Europe preparing for a few Classics races and then the Tour of Turkey.
Does he back himself to score his first landmark sprint victory? “For sure. The guys around me have full confidence in me.
“The sprints in Oman probably suited me a bit more, and in Europe the racing is on narrower roads and there’s more climbing, and we’re going to lose more than we win, but I know we’re capable of it.
“In the last two years I have been given a lot of sprinting opportunities, and I’ve had a number of podiums that do pile up. It’s been about going through the process, and now we have a good leadout, it’s about keeping the dice rolling and building this team, knowing the wins will come.”
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Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.
Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.
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