The Roar
The Roar


Time for Orica-BikeExchange to target the green jersey

Orica-BikeExchange will target the green jersey at this year's Tour de France. Image: Bettini ©
3rd July, 2016

Bernard Hinault thinks that Aussie Michael Matthews might take the yellow jersey on tonight’s uphill finish at Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, which is just as well because Orica-BikeExchange are looking at a Tour de France of slim pickings.

Without a pure sprinter or a climber capable of matching it with Froome, Quintana and Contador, the recently renamed Australian pro-cycling team has reverted back to its opportunist beginnings, targeting stage wins rather than mounting a full scale tilt at general classification.

And while sports director Matt White believes that the team has a good chance in 14 of the 20 stages on offer, a more realistic figure would be seven. If this then converts to one or two victories on the road, then the Australian registered team would be satisfied.

Hinault has the right of it though. Matthews shapes as the Orica-BikeExchange rider to watch. If teammate Simon Gerrans can put his own ambitions to the side and ride in support of Matthews, then the Aussie speedster can challenge for stage wins and perhaps even the green jersey.

The sprinting elite will have ‘Bling! covered on the flat days, but by consistently finishing in the top ten and then pushing for victory on the more difficult stages, the Canberra-born rider could find himself in a fascinating battle for green with the irrepressible Peter Sagan.

Sagan has claimed the green jersey in each of the four Tours de France he has ridden, so it will be no easy task to whisk the title away from him, but Matthews is probably the best equipped of the current crop of challengers to attempt the coup.

As the likes of Andre Greipel, Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel can attest, a swag of stage wins in no way guarantees you a green jersey. Not under the current points allocation anyway. And not against Sagan.

In fact Sagan’s last two green jerseys were earned without any stage wins at all! Instead consistency and the careful accumulation of points at intermediate sprints has got the job done for the Slovakian. That and his ability to outlast the pure sprinters over more difficult terrain.


Matthews rides a similar game. What he lacks in pure speed on the flat lands he makes up for with strength over the smaller climbs and on the uphill finishes, so for the first time in years Sagan might have some competition.

We are yet to see the best of Matthews at the Tour. In 2014 he crashed in training a couple of days before the race was due to start and had to be replaced in the team at the last minute. Last year he was involved in the horrendous Stage 3 crash that claimed a multitude of victims. He survived the crash and rode on, but was severely restricted because of the injuries he sustained and could not compete in the manner that he would have liked.

This year however he is fit and hungry to succeed. If Orica-BikeExchange throw their full support behind him and not spoil things by splitting their leadership, Matthews could add yet another achievement to the team’s already impressive palmares.

While Rubin Plaza and Adam Yates will be looking towards the mountains, the rest of the squad should make it their number one priority to look after Matthews. Whether that happens or not is another story as each is capable of taking an opportunist win on the day.

Luke Durbridge, Michael Albasini, Mathew Hayman, Daryl Impey, Christopher Juul-Jensen and Gerrans are all strong riders, but they must be focused on one goal. This time around it should be assisting Matthews in his quest for the green jersey, even if it means sacrificing individual glory.

If they do then their efforts may just put Orica-BikeExchange on the final podium when the classification jerseys are presented in Paris three weeks hence.

And that would make it a very successful Tour indeed!


But if they don’t?

Then it could be a very long three weeks for our home-grown team.