COMPIEGNE, France (VN) — With a dozen wins to its credit, including January’s Tour Down Under and last month’s Milan-San Remo, Australia’s GreenEdge cycling is off to the kind of start that any team would envy. For a squad that made its WorldTour debut less than 100 days ago, the team’s growing palmarès is impressive.
VeloNews spoke with GreenEdge director Matt White Saturday at the team’s hotel in Compiegne, site of Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix start. Asked whether the team has exceeded even it’s own expectations, the 38-year-old Sydney native admitted to feeling a little giddy.
“Yeah, we’ve had an amazing start, that’s for sure,” said White.
“We put a lot of preparation into [starting well at the] Tour Down Under. That was our first big goal and obviously you couldn’t ask for a better start than winning at home. But the roll we’ve been on over the past four weeks has been incredible. Really incredible.”
On the eve of Paris-Roubaix, the team has already shown its grit in the classics, with Simon Gerrans’ surprise victory at Milan-San Remo. But GreenEdge will take Sunday’s start without a key rider, Sebastian Langeveld, who broke his collarbone in a high-speed collision with a spectator at last weekend’s Tour of Flanders.
“[With Langeveld’s absence] we’re short, not only for Paris-Roubaix tomorrow but also for the Ardennes Classics [where the team will be riding in support of Gerrans],” White said. Still, we’ve got guys with a lot of experience in [Stuart] O’Grady, [Tomas] Vaitkus and [Baden] Cooke.”
Langeveld isn’t the only rider who’ll be missing on Sunday. Also absent will be perennial favorite Fabian Cancellara of RadioShack-Nissanwho, like Langeveld, broke his collarbone at the Tour of Flanders.
“With Fabian not here there’s not one person who can rip the race to pieces. So I think it opens up the race a lot,” notes White. “Obviously Omega Pharma-Quick Step have a great team here this year. They’ve had a super classics campaign and I think the burden of controlling the race will fall on their shoulders.”
While GreenEdge will ride — in theory — for Stuart O’Grady, White’s tactical approach to Sunday’s race seems to reflect the popular consensus in Compiegne: make it through the Arenberg Forest and then assess your chances from there.
“You know you can have all the plans you want in this race,” explains White, “but if something goes wrong in the forest it’s pretty hard to come back. There’s usually a good selection of 15-40 guys there and if you make that selection you’ve got a chance to do pretty well.
“So I think there are a lot of teams with a similar goal. You want guys up the road after the forest.”
One thing fans should not expect to see is White’s GreenEdge squad playing “follow the leader” with race favorite Tom Boonen.
“I think certain riders will be [marking Boonen], but we’re definitely not interested in riding like that. I mean, unless you’re confident you can go with him when he makes a move, it’s kind of pointless, really.
“This is not one of those races where you need to mark individuals anyway. You’ve really got to look after yourself. There’s so much going on in [Paris-Roubaix], that you’ve just got to get through each sector safely. Once things thin out you can look around and decide how you’re going to play the final.”