The 100th edition of the Tour de France has been and gone but what a race it was this year. We, as viewers, were entertained from start to finish, because the three-week race had a surprise around every corner.
But, in the end, the best man won with Chris Froome of Team Sky.
Some teams under-performed while other teams exceeded expectations, one of them being Orica-GreenEDGE.
The team, in its second year of existence, has already ticked off many boxes – and then some – of the goals that they set out to chase. Their performance at the 2013 Tour de France has just lifted the bar higher with stage wins and four days in yellow.
The first ever Australian professional team, a 20-year dream of Shayne Banana’s, became a reality after huge amount of work over many years.
It couldn’t have been done without the amazing support and initial backing of Gerry Ryan, a passionate supporter of Australian sport.
Anyone who has been part of a new team knows that it always takes time to get on top of things and have everything run smoothly.
Extra pressure is added when you have a team trying to operate across two continents, run two teams (men’s and women’s) and to a lesser extent supporting the U23 feeder team.
Much of the base structure crosses over between the squads, although each team does have their own staff and way of operating but in the big picture, we are one big family.
When the team first started out, the logistic and the organisation of getting all of the equipment and clothing sorted was a mammoth task.
With the Australian season starting earlier than the rest of the world and the announcement of the men’s team gaining World Tour status coming so late in the year, so much had to come together in a small amount of time.
Luckily, as an Australian team, we have that ‘easy going’ mentality, although one feels that the foreign riders took a little while to adjust. We worked through the hold ups, things took time to be running smoothly but everything eventually came together.
The season started with a bang and the winning mentality and atmosphere within the team gained steady momentum.
In Orica-GreenEDGE’s first year from the men’s side, they won big. Simon Gerrans’ Milan San Remo victory, Matt Goss claimed a stage of the Giro d’Italia and Simon Clarke won a stage and the overall mountains classification of the Vuelta Espana.
These are just a very small selection of victories they claimed in their maiden year.
The women were equally as successful with wins including the Ladies Tour of Qatar, Het Nieuwsblad, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Giro d’Italia feminine stage, Thuringen Rundfarht, to name a few.
Orica-GreenEDGE came onto the circuit wanting to have an impact. Lacking a Grand Tour GC contender, from the outset the team stated that they wanted to target one-day races and stages in the Grand Tours.
Sure, they missed out on the elusive stage win in their first Tour de France appearance but everything else the team achieved in its first year was heartening.
The team, one feels, has been so successful in such a short space of time because it was something new, Australia’s first ever professional team racing at the highest level. It was exciting and everyone involved wanted to see it succeed.
The team has the right balance of Australian riders – established guys with up-and-coming talents – combined with a mix of foreigners. They are serious and professional when they need to be but also know how to relax and have fun.
You see that with the great videos Dan Jones has put together over the past two seasons, giving an insight to the team’s operations and personalities involved.
It’s great for the exposure and added support that comes along with it for a women’s team being run along side a men’s team.
I, being an part of the women’s team, am lucky to have such a great group of girls to race alongside. We respect each other and our abilities. We will always back our teammates if they have the opportunity to win, and we work cohesively and strongly as a team.
You see it in the results and the way we race. For me personally, since joining the team, I have felt myself step up a level and really improve since being in this environment.
As women’s cycling is still growing in professionalism, it is nice to be a part of a project that is on the front foot and leading the way. We thrive on seeing the success of the men’s squad and we want to match it.
I think we bounce off of each other’s success to a certain extent.
The teams are both still very young and we are far from seeing the best. There is a huge potential to grow and improve for future success, particularly among the younger guys who are learning so much from the experienced riders in the group.
Now that the team has the foundation, they have the ability to recruit the best riders in the world and aim for higher potential success.
With secure backing and continued success, they eventually want to either develop or recruit a Grand Tour GC rider, to build a team around them and strive for the biggest prize of them all – the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, which is a realistic and achievable goal if it’s done right in the coming years.
The establishment of Orica-GreenEDGE has been massive for Australian cycling. Cycling in Australia has being growing for a long time and when Cadel Evans won the Tour de France, it took it to a whole new level.
The team gives hope for young Australian cyclists to become a professional. With the Australian domestic scene growing every year, there are opportunities to be invited to the under-23 feeder team acting as a stepping-stone into the pro ranks.
The time was right for Australia to have a professional squad in the world tour due to the number of strong cyclists that are coming out of Australia making a name for themselves on the world stage.
Now that we have a jersey and a team to support, cycling in Australia will continue to grow for many years to come.
Orica-GreenEDGE can be proud of what they have achieved in such little time as this is no mean feat.