Bannan: Orica-GreenEdge needs refocused effort for grand tour success

Orica-GreenEdge last night indicated that the team will carry a full roster of 30 riders for their second season in the professional ranks, with the signing of Michael Matthews from Rabobank.

For 2011, the Australian team rode with 29 riders with Robbie McEwen retiring at the Tour of California and Matt Wilson due to retire following the Vattenfall Cyclassics later this week. Sam Bewley replaced McEwen and there has been talk for a number of weeks now that the team would announce new riders for 2013.

It's an added twist considering a recent interview in the Australian Financial Review by team owner Gerry Ryan where the businessman said that the team would carry a roster of 28 for next season, with three riders set to leave the team.

Speaking to Cyclingnews shortly before the announcement that Matthews had signed a "multiple-year-deal" with GreenEdge, general manager Shayne Bannan said the 21-year-old is an amazing talent.

"We saw that when he was under 23 world champion in Geelong," he said. "Then we saw it in his first WorldTour event in 2011 where he won the Stirling stage at the Tour Down Under. He is a great talent and Rabobank has done a great job with him - giving him a really diverse race program and we believe he's one of the big potentials for the future."

When it came to rumours that the team was also chasing the signature of Sky's Michael Rogers, Bannan was dismissive.

"As much as he would be a great asset, I think he's pretty happy at Sky," he explained. I would think they would be pretty keen to keep him. As we saw at the Tour de France this year he's a great ally for the guys there. He's got fantastic experience and as much as we'd love to have him I think it would be hard to lure him away from Sky at this particular point in his career."

In the same interview where Ryan said that the team would have 28 riders on the books, it was also suggested that the team could have more sponsors for their second season. Bannan was not aware, or was not giving anything away, about any specific deals saying: "There's a continuous discussion with potential partners. It's an evolution."

As their debut season winds down, Bannan believes there is still much that can be achieved, adding to the team's stellar start following victories at the Australian Road National Championships, Tour Down Under, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, Circuit Cycliste Sarthe, as well as at Milan-San Remo. Matt Goss claimed then claimed the team's first Grand Tour stage win at the Giro d'Italia.

The team was not able to keep the good fortune rolling at the Tour de France, and the much- hoped-for one or two stage victories were not forth-coming. Bannan admits that expectations were high.

"There would certainly be a feeling of disappointment that we didn't pull off a stage but at the same time, they gave it everything," he told Cyclingnews. "We were pretty close on several occasions and so I know everybody walked away from the Tour de France learning a lot from it, satisfied that everybody did what they could do at the particular point in time and we're looking forward to seeing how much better we can do next year."

Asked where the team needed to improve in order to come away with the odd stage victory, Bannan told Cyclingnews that GreenEdge needed to be "more specific" in certain areas.

"Certainly looking at the Sky operation in the way that they've developed, they're the benchmark of the professional teams, no question," he said. "There are several areas. I don't want to go into too much detail because that's for other teams to learn as well."

In terms of expectations, the team is hoping to close out 2012 in the same way the season began.

"I think what we've seen in the last couple of weeks with our performances at the Eneco Tour which is a WorldTour event - we have turned it around," Bannan explained. "The guys that weren't riding the Tour prepared extremely well during the month of July and they've come out really looking forward to some good results for the last part of the season.

"We've started well with two stage wins in Eneco and second place in San Sebastian Tuesday," he continued. "We've got the Vuelta and Hamburg coming up, Plouay the weekend after that and then the races in Canada and China are pretty important to us as well. We're looking forward to being really competitive in the last few months."

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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.


Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.