ADELAIDE, Australia, Jan 22, 2012 (AFP) – Peloton new boys GreenEdge put criticism of their early displays on the Tour Down Under to bed by winning the WorldTour opener through Simon Gerrans on Sunday.
As the first ever Australian team in cycling’s top tier GreenEdge were expected to make an immediate impact on their ‘home’ race.
However the team run by Shayne Bannan and directed by Matt White made fans wait four days before being given a reason to celebrate, with Gerrans climbing into the leader’s ochre jersey on the penultimate stage five.
In Sunday’s final stage, a 90 km street circuit won by two-time race winner Andre Greipel of Germany, GreenEdge worked hard to defend Gerrans’ lead to score a first ever victory in the WorldTour.
For GreenEdge’s main stakeholder, businessman Gerry Ryan, it was an
unexpected but welcome start to their maiden season.
“It’s fantastic, it’s been a great journey and this puts the icing on the cake,” said Ryan, who has invested millions into the team to get it up and running and secure its entry to the WorldTour for three years.
With a core of Australian riders, GreenEdge hopes to challenge some of the world’s top teams in most of the 28-race WorldTour events.
Among their ranks are veteran Tour de France stage winners Stuart O’Grady and Robbie McEwen.
However they also look to have a bright future with the likes of Jack Bobridge, Cameron Meyer and Luke Durbridge — who are all part of Australia’s four-man track cycling pursuit team that will bid for gold at the Olympics.
Durbridge, the under-23 world champion who recently won the national time trial title, was especially happy as he approaches his first season in the WorldTour.
“I can’t be happier. I am a passionate Australian and to see the first WorldTour team for Australia win, you can’t get much better than that,” he said.
McEwen, who is set to retire before the summer, admitted his final race in Australia had special significance.
“I joined the team and was really excited about being part of the GreenEdge project, racing in an Aussie team, our national team,” said McEwen, a 12-time stage winner on the Tour de France.”
“It’s a fantastic way to go out as far as Australian racing is concerned.”
During his spell as sports director with Garmin last year White steered Meyer to a narrow victory over Matt Goss on the final stage.
Now at GreenEdge, and in charge of both riders, White was delighted to steer another Australian to the win.
“To win the Tour Down Under with our newly crowned national champion, we couldn’t have written a better script. (I’m) elated, just elated,” said White.
Gerrans finished with the same time as Spanish ace Alejandro Valverde, the Movistar rider who is likely to be one of his biggest challengers in the hilly one-day classics of the spring.
Six years after his maiden win here, when the event was still a second tier race, the Victorian took even more pleasure from securing their first win.
“It’s an even sweeter victory than my first one here in 2006. It couldn’t be a better start for us,” said Gerrans.
“Often that first victory for a new team is the hardest one to get and we’ve got it in our first outing, so it really is a dream start and I think this will create a great momentum for the year to come.”