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The new Australian Champion.
Official kit, team song unveiled, as Merckx praises team ideals
Almost 12 months to the day from when Shayne Bannan fronted the Santos Tour Down Under media to confirm that he was in fact launching a bid for the first Australian WorldTour team, GreenEdge was today officially presented, days before the start of the 2012 season.
Fanfare was at a minimum however the excitement in the room was tangible. The results of the men's team's efforts in the recording studio was finally there for all to see and hear with their cover of Tom Petty's I Won't Back Down, the theme of the afternoon.
Members of both the men's and women's team, known as GreenEdge-AIS team lined up in an Adelaide hotel in the fluorescent green and yellow kit with Simon Gerrans' new Australian Champion's jersey the jewel in the outfit's crown.
Much has been made of the GreenEdge men's roster and the lack of a general classification contender for the Grand Tours however general manager Bannan maintained that in its inaugural season, it was the best position for the team to be in.
"Not having a GC rider makes you more flexible," he explained. "When you have a GC rider you tend to be very focussed [on the Grand Tours], as you should be, because you spend a lot of money on GC riders.
"Structuring the way we have, it gives us the flexibility to concentrate on most events. We'll definitely look at that being the focus for the first two years."
The women's team was presented first, having started 2012 with overall victory at the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic through Melissa Hoskins and a clean sweep of the Australian Championships with Alexis Rhodes (criterium), Amanda Spratt (road) and Shara Gillow (time trial). Wearing team tracksuits, GreenEdge-AIS star recruit Judith Arndt did not hold back in her enthusiasm.
"I think one of the big things I get from these girls is with their youth there is so much energy," the reigning World Time Trial Champion said. "So much spirit. I only flew in last night but I'm already really affected by it. I'm looking forward to what we can do with this project."
The Tour Down Under, the WorldTour's first event of the season has been the domain of Lance Armstrong since 2009, but today it was Eddy Merckx who took centre stage. The prolific Grand Tour winner praised the position of the team with Australian DNA.
"I think GreenEdge is a great project for the global growth of cycling," said Merckx.
Merckx believes that is GreenEdge is the next logical step for the sport in Australia.
"If you think back to the days of Phil Anderson, when there were very few Australians to now when you have a Tour de France winner in Cadel Evans, a professional team in GreenEdge, and Classics winners in Stuart O'Grady and Matt Goss – the sport is bigger and bigger in Australia."
"And I think the team is doing everything right, they have strong riders, good staff and a solid backing. I think they can be very successful."
Speaking with Cyclingnews, GreenEdge's financial backer businessman Gerry Ryan admitted that he and Bannan may have some emotional moments just prior to the Tour Down Under getting underway.
"I said to the internationals at the team dinner, I thanked them because they don't know who I am and probably just even Shayne and his profile on the international scene is pretty slim - to believe that we were going to make it happen; we were going to get a UCI licence; that we were going to try and put the best support staff together to help them become better riders."