Will GreenEDGE ever win Tour de France?

Joe Karsay Columnist

10 Have your say

    GreenEDGE riders (AAP Image/Kathy Watt)

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    On the eve of Australia Day, our first professional cycling team GreenEDGE has had its maiden ProTour victory in our national cycling road race, the Tour Down Under, with the general classification being taken out by talented young rider Simon Gerrans.

    On the back of Cadel Evans’ inspiring win in the Tour de France last year, you would have to say that cycling in this country has never been stronger.

    The evidence goes further than the professional results – drive past any café at 7am on a Saturday morning and you will see expensive Italian road bikes piled outside as their recently departed owners sip lattes in their brand new lycra bibs. Cycling is the sport du jour!

    In Europe, Cycling is a very popular sport. It is now on the precipice of becoming one here too, although there are still some mountains for the sport to climb.

    Just like football, it will be hard for a sport with no history in this country to get the requisite media attention and sponsorship dollars.

    The success or otherwise of GreenEDGE will have a lot to do with the next phase of growth for the sport in Australia. We are used to taking on the world and winning.

    But this team will take years before it can compete for the General Classification (GC) in a Grand Tour, if ever.

    Like football, Europe always has been and always will be the heartbeat for professional cycling, and even with the advent of an Australian owned professional team, we can expect that our best and brightest will still be lured by the big dollars offered by the European teams.

    You can already see it in the current GreenEDGE line-up – we have some great young riders (Goss, Gerrans and Durbridge) and some of the old hard heads like O’Grady and McEwen have joined, but those in their prime – like Cadel – will be much harder to snag.

    It’s a bit like the A-League, where we might get a young player for a few years before they are discovered, they then go to Europe and might return to take their pension in the A-League, ala Harry Kewell.

    Simon Gerrans is GreenEDGE’s number one man, having just won our national title and the Tour Down Under in the last month.

    However, in an interview this morning he was blunt about the fact that the GC in a Grand Tour is not even part of GreenEDGE’s plans for this year. They will be looking for good results in the Spring Classics and stage wins in the Tours – at best.

    Given that many cycling fans in Australia are relatively new to the sport and not seasoned experts – there is a danger that GreenEDGE will fail to capture the national attention if they are uncompetitive in the Tour de France.

    We have seen it all before in football where bandwagon jumpers get on board for the World Cup Qualifiers and first few rounds of the World Cup Finals, but go missing as soon as we have a bad result.

    We need to be patient with this team and cognizant of the fact that the teams they are competing against have had their structures in place for years and have big corporate dollars backing them.

    Think of new NRL and AFL teams who join the competiton and how long it takes them to become competitive. We need to stick with them even though we are used to seeing the green and gold on top.

    But so close to our national day – you will allow me to dream – Cadel has another couple of cracks at the Tour in his legs. How good would it be to see him do it in the Green and Gold of GreenEDGE!

    Johan Bruyneel was able to build a US-based cycling team around Lance Armstrong that conquered the world, it may just be possible that GreenEDGE could do the same with Cadel!

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    The Crowd Says (10)

    • January 24th 2012 @ 12:50pm
      Danny_Mac said | January 24th 2012 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

      Firstly, there is a hell of a lot of politics in cycling… GreenEDGE is heavily affiliated with the AIS, which focuses mainly on track cycling (which equates nicely to Olympic Gold medals), this then creates spriters. Cadel coming from a MTB background really upset the apple cart. GreenEDGE will focus on stage wins and one day classics, their rider lineup makes that pretty obvious.

      BMC have put together one of the strongest sides ever, and Cadel is the main man. He’s never going to walk away from that, especailly to an envionment to be surrounded by people who would be happy to see him fail.

      The Socceroos analogy is a brilliant one, and expectations and “Tall Poppy Syndrome” will be the undoing of GreenEDGE in terms of popularity. People simply don’t understand the way cycling works… Cadel had never won a stage before last year’s tour, and he only led the tour after the penultimate stage!

      Finally, and most sadly, Warnie’s (and Magda’s before him) rant only exposes the fact that there really isn’t an acceptance of cycling in this country. Everybody in the land will get up and watch Cadel on the podium, but how many watched him win the night before? How many are prepared to actually give it a go? The 5:30 starts before work everyday? Everybody can stick the boot into the latte sipping, leg shaven, lycra monkeys, but does anybody actually know why they wear it? or why they shave their legs? It sounds extreme, but its true.

      Melbourne is the sporting capital of the world, but really, they only love a winner. Most of the cycling hate seems to come from there. But when Melbourne’s own Cadel Evens, who is actually from Kathrine in the NT and lives nowhere near Melbourne when he’s in the country, wins the tour, lets have a parade and celebrate one of the state’s icons. But hey, everybody loves a winner right?

    • January 24th 2012 @ 3:12pm
      ChrisW said | January 24th 2012 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

      Cyclists arnt hated its when they go in the middle busy roads which is the problem and i think track cycling has quite a history in Australia.

      • January 25th 2012 @ 12:33pm
        Danny_Mac said | January 25th 2012 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

        The reason that track cycling has a history in this country is that the AIS pumps money into it, and it gets results. The AIS has its funding modelled on Olympic Gold Medals (OGM), setting up a system that is going to build great climbers is fantastic for a TDF winner, but isn’t going to return the same number of medallists at the olympics.

        As for the cyclist hate, mate, spare me. I get bagged by my own family, ask anybody that doesn’t ride what they actually think of cyclists. The hate is there alright, it just takes a Magda or a Warnie for it to boil over.

    • January 24th 2012 @ 5:44pm
      DANIEL said | January 24th 2012 @ 5:44pm | ! Report

      In Green EDGE’s case, it will act more like one of those huge european outfits, unlike the a-league. I think many Australian Pro Cyclists are gonna want to hang around a team that is clearly looking to focus on the sprinting jerseys at some stage.

      • January 25th 2012 @ 12:37pm
        Danny_Mac said | January 25th 2012 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

        I think it just represents a wider mis-understanding of how professional cycling actually works. There is so much more to it than the TDF, and I would question how many people even knew that TDU was a ProTour event, or that there was a ProTour…

    • January 24th 2012 @ 7:16pm
      SimonM said | January 24th 2012 @ 7:16pm | ! Report

      Simon Gerrans twice referred to as a “young rider.”

      That’s going to make any other cyclist in their 30s (as he is) feel good ;o)

      • January 25th 2012 @ 12:26pm
        Danny_Mac said | January 25th 2012 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

        Had a chuckle about that myself… 🙂

    • January 25th 2012 @ 12:41pm
      Danny_Mac said | January 25th 2012 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

      Oh and FYI, Simon Gerrans isn’t GEC’s main man. That honour goes to Matt Goss, the first Aussie to win Milan-San Remo, and would have been the Cyclist of the Year if Cadel hadn’t ruined everything for him! 😛

    • January 25th 2012 @ 6:23pm
      Cameron said | January 25th 2012 @ 6:23pm | ! Report

      I think that this article touches on an issue that hasn’t really been focused on from Australian media reporting on this: that the team is very one-dimensional. It’s either got a ton of sprinters or a ton of ex-trackies and there’s even talk of another ex-trackie coming to the team after McEwen retires mid-season. They do have a few riders for the classics, namely Gerrans, O’Grady, Docker and Clarke but really they have very few riders that can get over any sort of mountain in front of the autobus. Really I think they’re putting too much faith into Meyer and Bobridge to suddenly grow wings uphill.
      Come Giro time, if GE haven’t had a successful Classics campaign then it will a very quiet season thereafter. Goss is a great sprinter for sure but in a new team with an untested sprint train setup against the likes of proven stars such as Cavendish, Griepel, Pettachi etc, he will have his work cut out and will need to be in good form for a lot longer than last season, it is a lot of pressure.

      • January 26th 2012 @ 10:54am
        adam said | January 26th 2012 @ 10:54am | ! Report

        Cam, I know that GE’s focus for the TDU was Gerrans and the overall win, however a weakness in their sprinting was exposed with the Gorilla winning 3 sprint finishes.

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