The 2012 Tour Down Under promises to be a race that will help certify Australia’s new position as a major force on the UCI World Tour.
Since Cadel Evans’ coronation at the 2011 Tour de France last July, professional cycling in Australia has grown significantly.
Indeed the 14th Tour Down Under, which is scheduled to start on January 15, has become the first race outside of Europe to be given UCI WorldTour status. This is the highest ranking that a cycling race can receive globally.
Although this year’s Tour Down Under will make do without the presence of Evans, Australian cycling fans still have the opportunity to watch Australia’s new professional cycling team, GreenEDGE, in action for the first time on the UCI WorldTour.
Led by Australian cycling legend Robbie McEwen, GreenEDGE, (along with Cadel Evans), have become the face of Australian cycling, and the team will be eager to win a few stages once the Tour Down Under gets underway.
If recent performances are anything to go by, GreenEDGE certainly have the personnel capable of leaving a good impression in their maiden UCI tour race.
In Cameron Meyer, the team possess the defending Tour Down Under champion, while young stars such as Leigh Howard, Jack Bodridge and Luke Durbridge headline the new crop of Australian professional cyclists riding for them.
Experienced riders such as Simon Gerrans and Matthew Goss can also be expected to fight for a podium finish or a stage victory.
Gerrans in particular is in great form, winning his maiden Australian national road race last Sunday, thus granting his team their first elite road race victory.
Fellow GreenEDGE riders such as Cameron Meyer, Luke Durbridge, Jack Bobridge, Stuart O’Grady, Wes Sulzberger and Baden Cooke all played an important role in helping Gerrans attain victory – a team performance that speaks volumes about the competitive spirit and will to win, despite being a newcomer to the UCI tour.
Overall, GreenEDGE’s introduction to the UCI tour ranks as one of the most important things to happen to Australian cycling since Evans’ victory at the 2011 Tour de France.
The prospect of having an Australian team riding alongside the world’s best cycling unit’s week in week out will only do wonders for a sport that is beginning to capture the minds of many Australians.
GreenEDGE team manager Matt White has already stated that he expects to ride in 250 races this year, among those including the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana.
Thankfully for White, the right to begin life on the UCI tour on home soil provides the Australian team with a platform to start well, given that they will be racing in front of hundreds and thousands of fans who are ready to welcome a new and exciting period in Australian cycling.
Indeed, this is what the 2012 Tour Down Under promises to deliver – the dawn of a new era for Australian cycling, with a wonderful chance to cement GreenEDGE as arguably one of the most important sporting teams representing Australia, in a sport traditionally dominated by Europeans.