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MILAN (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali won the Tour of Oman on Sunday, but Australian Brendan Canty of Drapac made the most progression. Canty went from riding his first race in November 2013 to climbing alongside Nibali, Romain Bardet, and Tom Dumoulin on the queen stage up Green Mountain.
The Melbourne native won that first race, Stratford to Dargo. The same year, Nibali won the Giro d’Italia and placed second in the Vuelta a España, Bardet 15th in the Tour de France, and Dumoulin second in the Eneco Tour.
“I didn’t expect to be climbing with those guys up Green Mountain, but if you don’t expect to ever be able to do it, I don’t think you ever can,” 24-year-old Canty told VeloNews. “There’s always a bit of belief. When I’m home training, I know that I have good capabilities and good legs, and the numbers, it’s just all a matter of getting out and doing it in a big race.”
Canty wiped off the grime from the fifth and final difficult stage in Oman. The white jersey that he donned soon after, on the podium, he kept as a reminder that he was the best young rider of the race. Besides placing seventh overall, the jersey is the biggest prize in his short career.
Had it not been for that bike race in 2013, he might have taken a job to use his commerce degree from Melbourne University or he might have returned to France to use the second language he learnt in school.
“I’d done a D-grade and C-grade local criterium before that road race, but that was it. In 2012 and 2013, I was running a lot while I was going for a commerce degree in Melbourne University.”
Canty knows the owner of Drapac, who is also from Melbourne, so it seemed right to ride for the team after one year with a local team and another with Continental squad Budget Forklifts. Last year, as a stagiaire, Drapac took him to the Abu Dhabi Tour. Orica-GreenEdge’s Esteban Chaves rode free with the stage win when Sky’s Wout Poels crashed on the Jebel Hafeet climb, and Canty finished 14th, over two minutes later.
It was harder to ignore him Friday on the 7.5-kilometer climb up Green Mountain. Canty climbed among the known commodities to finish eight — he has journalists reaching for their start lists to find the name of rider number 141 in the red Drapac jersey.
“I’m 24, not super young, but in terms of my riding experience, I’m young and new to it. To compare me to Richie Porte or Simon Gerrans is far-fetched, but you always want to dream big,” added Canty. “I hope to keep ticking off my goals, and hopefully one day I’ll be racing against them and beating them.”
Drapac should race the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe, the Giro del Trentino, and the Tour of Turkey in April, which could be a few of the next races for Canty.
“I raced the Tour de San Luis. I crashed twice in two days and lost confidence. On the big climb, I finished 20th and lost two and a half minutes against Quintana and Nibali. One race went well, one didn’t, but Oman was a boost for my confidence.
“It depends on where my form goes to understand what’s next, but there’s no doubt there will be lots of opportunities to come.”