Jayco-AlUla have recently headed to Europe without the men’s green and gold national champion’s jersey and the Santos Tour Down Under ochre winner’s jersey. But this year there is a real sense that things are different, with a stronger team, more confidence and loftier ambitions.
Simon Yates, Plapp and Chris Harper make a formidable trio to chase overall victory at the Tour Down Under. Then there is Ewan for the early sprint stages. If he recovers from the impact of the recent Adelaide heat, Jayco-AlUla have riders to target victory every day and every terrain.
Even before the winning run at the Australian Road National Championships, the team made their intentions in January unequivocally clear, setting the bar high for themselves.
“Having Plapp and Ewan join us will be a huge boost and with Yates returning after he enjoyed a stage win and second place finish overall… we are coming in with high ambitions to win,” said Jayco-AlUla sport director Mat Hayman in the team announcement that came out mid December.
“Hopefully 2024 will be a memorable one.”
The Australian Road National Championships certainly was, with Ewan’s national criterium title victory, a clean sweep of the time trial led by Plapp before he went on to take the road title for a third year running and again stand on the podium with teammates either side.
It was an impressive run but can it continue as the WorldTour racing begins?
The 2023 Tour Down Under winner Jay Vine won’t be on the line for UAE Team Emirates but with Alessandro Covi and Finn Fisher-Black they’ve certainly got some powerful options on the climbs.
Then of course there is Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step) who is coming back to the race where he first pulled on an Omega Pharma-QuickStep jersey in 2014.
Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) is also another rider who has early career memories at the race, with the Australian having delivered top 20 finishes in 2014 and 2015, as well as a youth classification win before he headed to the WorldTour.
He hasn’t been back to the race since and so is ambitious.
“It’s a race that basically helped me get a professional contract so it’s really nice to be back,” Haig told Cyclingnews.
“I’d really like to have a good GC result, maybe a top five. I’m quite…