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If Archie Ryan won a race or two at any point this year it would be a great success. But having time on his side doesn’t preclude hitting the ground running (Photo: Dion Kerckhoffs-Cor Vos)

Archie Ryan may have gotten his term with EF Education-EasyPost underway at a pre-Tour de Under criterium in Adelaide at the weekend but the real racing begins tomorrow when the Australian stage race starts.

In their previews, cycling media outlets from around the world have produced a predictable mix of sprinters and climbers as their ‘ones to watch’ during the action between Tuesday and next Sunday.

One name missing is that of Ryan’s. That is perhaps understandable given he is new to this level. However, it also underlines the golden opportunity Ryan has to go into this race under the radar and announce himself in the World Tour.

His stinging surges on the climbs, and his ability to find his form immediately he starts racing, both suggest he just might make a bigger impact than expected over the next week.

Ryan is under no pressure. He needs to familiarise himself with his surroundings – and the higher intensity and volume of top tier racing. If he won a race or two at any point this season it would be a great success. But that doesn’t preclude really impressing from the outset.

Archie Ryan is a born winner and whether his next victory comes this week, or back in Europe later this season, matters little in the long term (Photo: Tour de l’Avenir)

While it is very early in the year, and the 22-year-old must be given a chance to find his feet, Ryan’s development – and sheer class – is far ahead of most riders new to the World Tour.

But for injury, he probably would have moved on from Jumbo Visma Development Team a year or two ago. He already has one bone fide pro win under his belt – at Tour de Slovaquie (2.1) in 2022. And at U23 level, he was one of the very best climbers at times in recent years.

He took a brilliant win – with a trademark all-out climbing assault – on the penultimate stage of Tour de l’Avenir last year, despite only having one race day under his belt before the event began. The previous year, he was the best climber in the race behind only overall winner Cian Uijtdebroeks, who has since gone on to place 9th overall at La Vuelta.

When the road kicks up at Santos Tour Down Under on the final two stages next weekend, Ryan will face different opponents, of course. Simon Yates (Jayco AlUla) is one of the very best climbers in the world and when he makes his moves – which seems inevitable – Ryan would need to have something special to hold him and challenge.

But the Irish rider does have something special. He already ranks up there with riders like Dan Martin and Ben Healy for sheer ability and willingness to take the battle to his opponents.

Yates won’t be the only big name Ryan must grapple with as Luke Plapp – Australian champion and now on the same team as Yates – is also capable of winning this race overall.

After that, Ineos Grenadiers has a brilliant team in Filippo Ganna, Jhonatan Narváez, Laurens De Plus and Leo Hayter. UAE Team Emirates have Diego Ulissi, Alessandro Covi and new signing Isaac del Toro, the Tour de l’Avenir winning from last year.

Others who could win the climbing stages or the overall include: Jack Haig (Bahrain Merida), Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-QuickStep), George Bennett (Israel Premier Tech) and Oscar Onley (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL), among others.

The challenge will come on Saturday, with the 3km Willunga Hill (7.5 per cent) will be tackled twice, include to the finish line. On Sunday, the race finishes on the 1.6km Mount Lofty (6.5 per cent), on the third passage of the climb.

Whatever happens, Ryan will know more about the World Tour, and himself, at the end of next week.

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