Five months have passed since Rohan Dennis abandoned the Tour de France in mysterious circumstances, climbing off the bike seemingly without cause during stage 12, the day before the race’s major time trial.
The Australian national champion winning one of cycling’s “monuments” in an Australian team’s colours – does it get any better than that? For the second consecutive year an Australian has taken out the Milan-San Remo one-day-classic.
In 2011 it was Matt Goss and last Sunday it was team mate and countryman Simon Gerrans.
Incredibly, both wins came at the expense of Fabian Cancellara who is one of the strongest one day riders in the world but has been pipped at the post by Australians two years in a row!
It was a win for the ages and one that will silence those who said GreenEDGE had made a disappointing start to the European season.
The debate about whether GreenEDGE have done enough in the early stages of their debut Pro Tour season have been put to bed in emphatic fashion.
As Cadel Evans told the SMH: “”They were getting criticised at the start of the year, they couldn’t have done much more this year… to win Milan-San Remo in the national champion’s jersey and to lead the world rankings, and also to win a team time trial, they couldn’t actually do much more than that”.
Matt Goss was the defending champion and perhaps unofficially GreenEDGE’s main man, however Gerrans in now challenging for that title as he is putting together the best season of his career which so far has included wins at the Australian National Championship, the Tour Down Under and the Milan-San Remo as well as second (by a very narrow margin) in the third stage of Paris-Nice.
To have Australians go back to back in this famous race says so much about how far cycling has come in Australia.
While the Grand Tour results will continue to build the mass appeal of the sport, wins in the classics will please the growing band of cycling devotees in this country.
Perhaps one of GreenEDGE’s secrets to success is the apparent harmony in the team. We know that managing egos is one of the most fraught aspects of any elite team sport. The absence of an out-and-out GC contender has allowed GreenEDGE to concentrate on stage wins and classic wins – but it also leaves a bit of ambiguity about the pecking order at the top of the team.
This has not proven to be an issue so far. The joy displayed by the GreenEDGE staff and Gerrans’ fellow riders in the official “behind the scenes” team video from last Sunday is palpable. It shows a tight team who are working together for team success rather than individual accolades.
Goss himself stated after the race, ““Two Aussies now to win it, it’s great that Simon’s got this win. It’s absolutely incredible, I’m stoked for him”.
It probably does not hurt that Gerrans himself is one of the most likeable guys on the Tour. If mateship is one of the defining characteristics of the Australian culture, our first Australian pro team certainly seems imbued with the same quality.
No man was happier than team manager Matt White. Whether warranted or not, White would have been feeling the pressure created by some of the criticism of his team’s early performances.
In his post-race comments, White indicated how important the win was not just to GreenEDGE but Australian Cycling at large: “It’s global cycling. Cycling’s changing… It’s really big for Australia, and I am very proud man”.
We should all be very proud. We have a pro team that is a genuine threat on the world stage.