Meyer reinvigorates GC believers at Tour of California

Tim Renowden Columnist

By Tim Renowden, Tim Renowden is a Roar Expert

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    Cameron Meyer’s fifth place overall in the Tour of California was a reminder of his potential, and gives Orica-GreenEDGE fans some hope the squad might begin to target stage races, rather than rely on sprinters and Simon Gerrans’ guile.

    Last week I had a great discussion on Twitter with some of my fellow contributors to The Roar, and some other knowledgeable cycling fans, about where Australia’s next Grand Tour general classification rider is coming from, and in particular when we should be expecting GreenEDGE’s first real GC rider to emerge.

    There was widespread agreement that OGE cannot rely on sprint victories indefinitely, and at some point the team will need to turn its focus to acquiring or developing a Grand Tour contender (or two).

    Naming this GC contender proved more difficult.

    Australia has a limited pool of proven GC riders, and a larger pool of developing youngsters, most of whom are outstanding time triallists or sprinters.

    Cadel Evans’ determined effort to wind back the clock in the Giro d’Italia notwithstanding, his career is clearly closer to the end than the beginning, and he seems happy at BMC for the foreseeable future.

    Mick Rogers is also still capable of strong results in stage races, with his second overall in California. But Rogers’ ambitions in Grand Tours while riding for Saxo-Tinkoff are limited to grinding Alberto Contador’s rivals into whimpering submission before saving his energy for the next day.

    OGE could do a lot worse than Rogers as an experienced substitute for Stuart O’Grady when he eventually calls it a day, but we’re really looking for young guns to pressure for podium places for the better part of the coming decade.

    Richie Porte is clearly going beautifully at Sky, but he will be at Sky for at least another season. When he signed with Sky for 2014, Porte told Cycling Central he didn’t seriously consider a move to OGE because the team is not structured to support a GC rider:

    “At the moment it’s not a team where GC is a focus. If I was to go there you’d have to bring a few guys along with you. At this point in my career, I don’t need stress thinking about unknowns, I just want to put my head down and learn the trade and here I can learn it off the best.”

    Porte is, of course, absolutely right. OGE is built around sprinters and opportunists. Its Grand Tour strategy relies on a Plan A featuring Matt Goss, and a Plan B featuring repeated attempts to get Pieter Weening into breakaways.

    When Goss is lacking form, or is ill (as has been the case in this Giro), the team can look dangerously one-dimensional.

    Weening is a good rider and a capable climber, but he’s not riding for GC. He’s also not Australian (which was one of our original criteria).

    The development of sprinters Leigh Howard and Michael Matthews is encouraging, but you don’t take three sprinters to a Grand Tour, and they don’t scratch the GC itch.

    So the desire for a more rounded set of goals, and the search for a new home-grown GC rider, is understandable but elusive.

    For several years, Cameron Meyer has been widely considered the man most likely.

    His track pedigree as multiple world champion; his 2011 victory in the Tour Down Under; a top-ten in Tirreno-Adriatico; dominant performances in national titles; all of these point to a rider capable of taking the next step.

    The frustrating factor is there hasn’t been a significant linear improvement in Meyer’s results on the road. A series of injuries (including a nasty-sounding bout of saddle sores requiring surgery earlier this season) undoubtedly hasn’t helped, but that’s a factor for every cyclist.

    So Meyer’s fifth place in the Tour of California (I refuse to name its sponsor) was an encouraging sign. Even more so, he was only a handful of seconds away from a podium position.

    Watching the OGE Backstage Pass after stage seven of the Tour of California, you can see a steely edge to his eyes: usually relaxed and easy-going, it’s clear Meyer was not happy to relinquish his podium place. This is a good sign.

    Meyer’s next stage race is the Tour de Suisse, traditionally a good tune-up for the Tour de France. Another good performance there would get OGE fans salivating for a possible Tour de France ride.

    Meyer is now 25, and getting to an age where serious performances are expected. Inevitably, he will be compared with other riders his age, such as Tejay Van Garderen, Rigoberto Uran, Rafal Majka, and Carlos Betancur, all of whom have performed (or are performing) well at Grand Tour level.

    Cameron Meyer may or may not turn into Orica-GreenEDGE’s first genuine GC hope, but his performance in California will give his fans reason for optimism.

    Tim Renowden
    Tim Renowden

    Tim Renowden has been following professional cycling closely since Indurain won his first Tour. An ex-runner, now a club grade bike racer, Tim tweets about sport at @megabicicleta.

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • Columnist

      May 21st 2013 @ 9:25am
      Kate Smart said | May 21st 2013 @ 9:25am | ! Report

      Well Tim, as you know, I pretty much agree with everything here.

      This year’s Giro has really highlighted OGE’s one dimensional approach.

      I thought it was interesting on Sunday’s Cycling Central though, when Kate Bates doubted that OGE is ultimately the right environment for Meyer.

      If Meyer is better off elsewhere, then that really raises some interesting questions.

      • Columnist

        May 21st 2013 @ 10:06am
        Tim Renowden said | May 21st 2013 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        I didn’t see what Bates said so I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but her comments may reflect the same view that Porte has: that OGE would need to change considerably before it’s a team where a rider with GC ambitions can flourish.
        I think there’s a bit of a Catch 22 here: OGE needs a rider to demonstrate that it’s worth investing in supporting him for the GC, because otherwise it’s a multi-million dollar punt into the unknown. Perhaps a top 10 finish at the Tour or the Vuelta would be enough?

        • Roar Guru

          May 21st 2013 @ 12:47pm
          delbeato said | May 21st 2013 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

          Kate’s comments on Cam were that he was a fish out of water at OGE. She seemed to be alluding that OGE is a very matey environment and Cam is his own man. It seemed she was suggesting he may not have fit in as well as others.

          • Columnist

            May 21st 2013 @ 1:35pm
            Tim Renowden said | May 21st 2013 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

            Right. Well, that’s a different kettle of fish entirely.

            • Columnist

              May 21st 2013 @ 2:41pm
              Kate Smart said | May 21st 2013 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

              Delbeato/Tim, isn’t that what I said?

              Sorry, have only just re-entered civilisation after a weekend in bed with the flu. Clearly, I didn’t articulate my point succinctly enough.

              • Roar Guru

                May 21st 2013 @ 2:51pm
                delbeato said | May 21st 2013 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

                Hope you’re feeling better. Kate Bates was a bit coy about Cam’s place at OGE – I got the feeling she knew more than she was sharing. I was just giving my take on what I thought she was alluding to. Another take could be that he isn’t going to get good support for GC races. They could both be true.

              • Columnist

                May 21st 2013 @ 2:55pm
                Tim Renowden said | May 21st 2013 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

                Yeah Kate sorry, I thought you meant in terms of “on the road” rather than personality types.

    • Columnist

      May 21st 2013 @ 3:03pm
      Kate Smart said | May 21st 2013 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

      Thanks delbeato, am feeling much better. Cold and flu tablets are awesome.

      I took the same meaning from Kate’s comments as you. I obviously just sounded more sinister in the retelling!

      I also suspect she has more thoughts on this as well. I think it would be a loss for OGE if they can’t develop Meyer. Hopefully he will have a long and happy career there.

      Just saw your comment Tim, sorry I should have been clearer.

    • Roar Guru

      May 22nd 2013 @ 1:40am
      Tom Fish said | May 22nd 2013 @ 1:40am | ! Report

      It will be difficult for OGE to build up a section of their team for GC, but it is doable, HTC-Highroad did it, they had Velits, Siutsou, Pinotti and van Garderen, so if they recruit smartly they could end up with a strong sprint team and a decent GC team.

    • May 22nd 2013 @ 10:36pm
      liquor box said | May 22nd 2013 @ 10:36pm | ! Report

      another option is to try to get teams of 2 or 3 riders to try to get into a break each stage. Other teams seem to be able to get 2 into a break quite often. Surely if you have the crrect combination then you have a better chance of a stage win.

      OGE has never had a good sprint train, they seem to form way to early and end up on their own with 400m to go.

      It is nice to try to have a majority Aussie team, but I also want to have a team that is Aussie registered. I think we need to look overseas for a few years to sure up our points and get some wins. Even Euskaltel are using foreign riders!

      • Roar Guru

        May 24th 2013 @ 4:24pm
        Bones506 said | May 24th 2013 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

        GE has several foreign riders but the primary make up should be Australian.

        Meyer has huge potential but he definitely needs someone like Mick Rogers in the team and probably one other GC rider to make things happen.

        I don’t want to hammer away on OGE as they have achieved a lot in terms of a team that has only had one full season but the sprint train needs work.

        I think Michael Matthews may well be part of the solution. I think he is actually faster than Goss. Goss is also an excellent lead out man. He was a huge part of HTC’s success and helped deliver Cav to a lot of wins.

        I understand Goss is the top paid rider so hard to make him second fiddle to a much younger rider but this may well be what has to happen.

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