MELBOURNE (VN) — Some of the European-based stars of Australian cycling had been in the country all of a few hours before organizers demanded their attendance at the official launch of the 2011 Jayco Herald Sun Tour in the Victorian capital.
Unsurprisingly, an existential GreenEdge presence was felt at the spiffy waterside luncheon in Melbourne’s Docklands district, which went by the moniker, “Inner Spin.”
The nascent team’s principal financial backer, Jayco Caravans’ boss Gerry Ryan, and team manager Shayne Bannan were in attendance, along with a few of their riders-to-be, who as of Tuesday number 27, having just announced the signatures of South African Daryl Impey (RadioShack) and Canadian Christian Meier (UnitedHealthcare). Among the others present were Cameron Meyer (Garmin-Cervélo) and Baden Cooke (Saxo Bank-SunGard).
Said Meyer of his experience in the Far East at last week’s Tour of Beijing: “It was a well-run event. It was a big spectacle, and it was a bit different about the food and what you had to eat. We got told by (team manager) Jonathan Vaughters, ‘Watch out for the meat — ‘cause you might turn out like Contador’… So we stayed away from the beef and stuck more to the duck or chicken.”
“That’s what you thought it was,” deftly quipped the master of ceremonies, a comment that appeared to make the 23-year-old West Australian think twice about what was still nestled in his guts.
Meanwhile Cooke, winner of the ‘Sun Tour’ in 2002, appears to be at a level of fitness and motivation that has been at best intermittent since he took the green jersey at the 2003 Tour de France. Coming off a strong performance in support of Matthew Goss at the road world championships in Copenhagen, which saw the latter finish second to Mark Cavendish, ‘Cookie’ then went on to place second to Mathew Hayman at Paris-Bourges last Thursday.
Cooke, who turns 33 the day the Sun Tour begins Wednesday in Whittlesea, said he still thinks a lot about the maillot vert he won eight years ago, at the Centenary Tour de France: “It basically changed my life, winning the green jersey. I’ve won a lot of other great races (that) I’m very proud of, but that’s basically what’s defined my career.”
In his upcoming role at GreenEdge, Cooke says he intends to help Goss accomplish what is every sprinter’s dream.
“We could potentially have myself and Stuey O’Grady, who has been second in green jersey, piloting Matt Goss, the up-and-comer, to go for the green jersey… What more experience could you ask for, people that have been there and done it themselves? He’s clearly got the goods to go for that, so I think it could be really special.”
The mystery bet for overall honors at the Sun Tour is Matthew Lloyd (Michelton Australian National Team), whose troubled season reached a low point in April when his former team, Omega Pharma-Lotto, dumped the climber, citing ‘behavioral’ reasons. But after much body-tweaking and perhaps equal amounts soul-searching, Lloyd — whose 2012 destination is still unknown — seems to have got his mojo and humor back.
“We’ve got a really strong, motivated bunch. Personally, I’m in the position to try and cause a bit of mayhem,” said the winner of the mountains classification at the 2010 Giro d’Italia.
“What does it actually mean?” asked the MC. “Are you going to push people off?”
After some thought, Lloyd replied: “I reckon it probably involves going faster than other people…”
Editor’s Note: Look out for exclusive video interviews from the Herald Sun Tour this week on VeloNews, including a two-part video interview with Matthew Lloyd.
Editor’s Note: Realizing life in advertising was nothing like Mad Men and buoyed by the Olympic Games in his Australian hometown of Sydney, Anthony Tan turned his back on a lucrative copywriting career in 2000 in pursuit of something more cerebral. Combining wordsmithing with his experiences as an A-Grade club racer and an underwhelming season competing in Europe, a career as a cycling scribe beckoned… More than 10 Grand Tours and countless Classics later, it’s where he still is today. He has been a contributor to VeloNews since 2006. In 2010, he won Cycling Australia’s media award for best story.