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Bring Rohan Dennis to Orica-GreenEDGE

Rohan Dennis grabs the prized yellow jersey following the Tour de France opener. (AFP PHOTO / JEFF PACHOUD)
Expert
20th May, 2014
14
1407 Reads

Since forming two years ago, Orica-GreenEDGE has largely chosen to ignore GC results at Grand Tours for wins in one day, short-stage races and time trials.

And given their record, there’s no doubt the strategy has worked. The honour list runs long.

Simon Gerrans, at Milan San Remo and Liege Bastogne Liege and the Tour Down Under – twice.

The Team Time Trial at last year’s Tour de France. Adam Yates’ victory at the recent Tour of Turkey and Michael Albasini’s four stage wins at the Tour de Romandie.

Three consecutive Australian Road Race Championships and Simon Clarke going KOM at the 2012 Vuelta a’Espana. Michael “Bling” Matthews winning two Vuelta stages last year plus Stage 6 at this year’s Giro and six days in the Maglia Rosa.

That’s just some of the highlights from an incredibly successful two-and-a-half years, and when you look at their roster you know there’s a lot more to come.

Perhaps I’m getting impatient though, because I want to see Orica-GreenEDGE riders starting to challenge for even bigger GC honours.

And call me patriotic, but for the bigger races I want to see an Aussie rider doing it.

I’ve loved watching Michael Albasini, Daryl Impey, Pieter Weening and Adam Yates win races, but when it’s your country’s first Pro Tour team, there’s an extra special feeling when it’s an Aussie doing the winning.

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Don’t get me wrong, if Marcel Kittel joined Orica-GreenEDGE next season I’d be rapt, but imagine watching an Aussie rider win a Grand Tour riding for an Aussie team. Cadel Evan’s tour triumph will always be hard to beat, but seeing an Aussie win a Grand Tour riding for Orica-GreenEDGE would be immense.

The 2014 Orica-GreenEDGE squad is made up of riders from 12 countries. Twelve of the 25 riders are Australian, which only highlights that Shayne Bannan, Neil Stephens and Matthew White only choose the best riders, and not just see the sport through patriotic eyes.

The performances of Bling Matthews have captured the nation’s imagination, but he wasn’t the only Aussie to shine in the past week.

Because while Matthews was enjoying a record stretch in pink for an Aussie rider, Rohan Dennis was making significant headlines in California. So much so, that surely next season they should find the room and the budget to bring Rohan Dennis into the Orica-GreenEDGE fold.

Dennis only 23, and to me that’s what is so good about the quietly spoken South Australian. Dennis is only 23.

Victory in Stage 3 of the Tour of California and second overall to a motivated Brad Wiggins is another notch on Dennis’ increasingly impressive resume. And he seems to be a quick learner.

Last year he struggled with three kilometres to ride on the climb of Mt Diablo, but last week he passed that point without issue and watched others crack. Dennis surged in the final 300 metres to win the stage.

His time trialling is also improving.

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This year he finished second in the Tour of Romandie Individual Time Trial compared to last year’s ninth. It was a similar story at the Criterium International where Dennis came second in the ITT – a big improvement on 15th a year earlier when he also failed to finish the race.

Second overall at the Tour of California came after finishing 39th just 12 months earlier.

So with rapid improvement in climbing and time trialling abilities, Rohan Dennis seems to have the key attributes for Grand Tour success, attributes that are ready to be honed. I reckon Dennis could really fly if he decided to leave Garmin at season’s end and come home.

Fast-forward 12 months from that and Richie Porte, who says he will leave Team Sky when his contract expires at the end of 2015, could join Dennis. But call it a gut feeling, I’m not sure Porte will join Orica-GreenEDGE.

Porte has spoken previously about not being the right nationality to be a team leader at Sky, so of course he’d have no problems with that in Gerry Ryan’s team, but you can’t guarantee he’ll come. You can’t guarantee Rohan Dennis will come either, but the other young riders in the squad will be a perfect fit, and so the timing might be good.

Importantly, Orica-GreenEDGE race director Matt White last night told SBS TV, that he is, “on the look-out for a GC rider for next season” and hopes to know more “in the next four to five weeks”.

So maybe Dennis is already in Orica-GreenEDGE’s sights, but while he may be a quick learner, Dennis can’t hone his undoubted skills by himself.

As I said Porte would be a great mentor, but will he come back to Orica-GreenEDGE?

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Either way, he can’t come back next season, so Michael Rogers would be my pick. Turning 35 in December and out of contract with Tinkoff-Saxo at season’s end, he would be a no-brainer signing for Orica-GreenEDGE.

As we saw at last year’s Tour, Rogers is a brilliant road captain and knows what it takes to challenge at the top end of the GC in a Grand Tour. Rogers could also pass on his experience to Simon Clarke, who while a good climber, doesn’t seem to have the time trial in him to challenge for GC honours at Grand Tour level.

Dennis does though, and could learn a lot from Rogers if the deals can be done.

Just ask his boss at Garmin Sharp, Jonathan Vaughters.

“Rohan is the rare talent that can ride a 3:54 team pursuit, climb with the best in the world and win in tactical situations,” Vaughters said.

“He will be one of the best riders in the world, the only question is when.”

No doubt we will know the answer soon enough, but how much sweeter would it be if Rohan Dennis was in an Orica-GreenEDGE kit in 2015?