White on the weight of expectations and anonymous racing
Paris-Nice, closely followed by Tirreno-Adriatico marks the point on the calendar where GreenEdge's ambitions are put to the test in Europe for the first time in their inaugural season. Key personnel such as Matt Goss and Simon Gerrans will both be in action as their campaign for Milan – San Remo and the Ardennes ramps up.
Despite coming away with the overall win at Tour Down Under and the Australian National Road title with Gerrans, the WorldTour neophytes have come under fire for a lack of podiums, however sports director Matt White says that the GreenEdge roster is not under-performing.
Asked to give his appraisal of GreenEdge's 2012 season to date, White told Cyclingnews that he would give his troops seven out of 10.
Following their Australian campaign, GreenEdge went to Qatar and Oman where Aidis Kruopis and Baden Cooke delivered minor placings on stages, while the Lithuanian finished top 10 on general classification. Another group raced at the Tour of the Mediterranean where neither a stage nor a general classification result ensued. Simon Clarke then delivered fifth on the two stages of Haut Var, as well as on GC, but it was GreenEdge's performance on the opening weekend of the classics last weekend where people started to ask questions of the team. One word that was used to describe the performance was 'anonymous'.
"It depends really," White suggested when Cyclingnews asked if the tag was warranted. "We went up there with a young group of guys. If Aidis Kruopis had had a better sprint well, if he'd run third or fourth, were we visible? He ran 12th [in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne].
"We didn't have Gossy, we didn't have O‘Grady we didn't have Tuft deliberately," White continued. "It's the opening weekend, we tried a few things. The real classics are coming up later on and I think we're in pretty good position."
Paris-Nice, starting on Sunday, and Tirreno-Adriatico on Wednesday are both "important races" according to White but once again, the key objective for the squads is stage wins, with "no interest at all" in Gerrans chasing overall while his focus is on the Ardennes. For White, it's an attitude that's in no way defeatist, but it is realistic.
"Tenth to 15th place in Paris-Nice is not really that much of a result is it?" he posed rhetorically. "So if we go on how many teams there are it means that half the teams don't achieve anything. We might as well achieve what we can and that's to try and get stage results."
The seven-stage due mare, again, is all about stage wins with the core of the squad then continuing on to race Milan-San Remo on March 17. The exception being Simon Gerrans and perhaps one other with Cameron Meyer due to return to Australia to concentrate on his preparations for the UCI Track World Championships in Melbourne which begins April 4.
Meyer, will have the opportunity to mount a general classification challenge with his race style suited to the hilly parcours that awaits the peloton from stage 3 and the individual time trial to conclude the race in San Benedetto del Tronto.
"It's a big step for him and we've got a very tough field there," White admitted. "We've got some stages for Gossy, we've got some stages for the other guys to try breaks – it's the perfect preparation for Milan-San Remo and the Flemish Classics."
GreenEdge team for Paris-Nice: Simon Gerrans, Michael Albasini, Jens Keukeleire, Leigh Howard, Simon Clarke, Wes Sulzberger, Matthew Wilson, Aidis Kruopis.
GreenEdge team for Tirreno-Adriatico: Matt Goss, Stuart O'Grady, Sebastiaan Langeveld, Jens Mouris, Baden Cooke, Thomas Vaitkus, Svein Tuft, Cameron Meyer.