Australian upstarts will not hire riders under contract, Stephens says
Neil Stephens has told Cyclingnews that GreenEdge will not sign riders under contract for next year, ruling out Cadel Evans and Michael Rogers, who both have contracts with BMC and Sky, respectively.
Stephens confirmed, however, that the team would be pursuing riders on the market for next year and that the team would be comprised of "60 to 70 per cent Australian riders".
Stephens was talking at the start village of stage 15 of Tour de France in Limoux. The former professional was in attendance with Matt White, the new head of the Australian road team. Their arrival, along with that of Shane Bannan who arrives at the race tomorrow, coincides with the Tour's rest day - a notoriously busy day in the cycling transfer market.
"We arranged this in January of this year and we knew that this was going to be spectacular week of racing and wanted people to see that. The fact that we're here on the rest day and that there are riders on the market is just a bit of a coincidence," Stephens told Cyclingnews.
Until August 1st UCI rules stipulate that riders and teams can not sign contracts for next year, but GreenEdge have been in discussions with a number of riders for next year, with the likes of Matthew Goss, Leigh Howard, Simon Gerrans, Matthew Hayman, Cameron Meyer and Jack Bobridge all coming to the end of their ties to rival teams.
Australian cycling has produced a wealth of talent in recent years but fundamentally most of them share the same characteristics.
"It would be a mistake to try and have them all. The typical Australian rider is strong, fast and courageous and the objective is to be 60-70 per cent Australian and that will be the flavour of the team, but until we start signing riders we really don't know.
"We've had a lot of conversations and verbal agreements but we're looking forward to the business end of the year.
"The majority of Australian riders are in great teams and singed up for next year and that's fine. We'd love to talk to Evans but he's got a long term commitment to BMC, Michael Rogers has another year with Sky. That adds to the value of Australian cycling as a whole. We can't go in as an all conquering team and try and buy riders out and perhaps upset other teams. We'll let riders fulfil their contracts and perhaps if we're lucky we'll be able to talk to them in the future."
Stephens also ruled out moving for a genuine GC contender for Grand Tours. The market for such riders is small, with Patrick Lefevere telling Cyclingnews last week that Andreas Klöden was perhaps the only realistic GC rider on the market. It's highly unlikely that GreenEdge would make a move for the ageing German, and with their stance set on refraining from breaking rider contracts they have taken aim at different objectives.
"I think we can do one-day races and week-long races. Three week races take a lot of energy so perhaps to start with we need to do things that we think we can do well and in the future we'll be able to look at the GC market."
And Manolo Siaz?
Stephens was a professional during the 1990s and before being embroiled in the Festina team's scandal in the 1998 Tour de France, he rode for Manolo Saiz at ONCE. The two were close, and the Australian has always talked fondly of his Spanish mentor despite the fact that Saiz has been at the centre of Operación Puerto.
This week L'Equipe ran an interview with Saiz with a headline 'Cycling needs me.'
Cyclingnews asked Stephens if he agreed with the statement.
"No. I would not agree. Manolo was a great manager in his day and was fantastic, but the world of cycling is changing. You look at someone like Rod Ellingworth at Sky and he's fantastic and I think what the world of cycling is new teams, new technology, diet, and biomechanics, that's what cycling needs. There are a few different teams that are doing that really well and we'd like to emulate.
"If he clears his name that would be great. He was a colourful person and working well within Spain, but you can't just take one day and say they should come back - that's a really open statement."
Back to top
Tour de France