Orica-GreenEdge building toward being Grand Tour contenders
Australian team may have already have a diamond in the rough, says Sunderland
Australia first UCI WorldTour cycling team, Orica-GreenEdge, has been on a winning streak as of late, with Simon Gerrans' Liège–Bastogne–Liège victory, Michael Albasini's three stage wins at the Tour de Romandie, neo-pro Adam Yates win at the Tour of Turkey, and with the Orica-AIS women's team getting into the mix with an opening stage win and second overall at the inaugural Women's Tour of Britain last week.
On Friday in Belfast, the squad recorded an opening stage team time trial win to start the Giro d'Italia, and gift birthday boy Svein Tuft the fabled Maglia Rosa, before he himself passed it on to teammate Michael Matthews on stage two.
"Success breeds success because winning is contagious, especially in a team sport like cycling," Scott Sunderland told Cyclingnews. "Once the riders realise they are all a part of the team, working hard to achieve great results and they start believing in themselves, then lookout. Even the women's team is doing a great job with results and adding more positive energy into the mix."
According to Sunderland, a ex-pro and former directeur sportif for Bjarne Riis' CSC during Carlos Sastre's 2008 Tour victory as well as manager and DS for Sky (2009-2010), the difference in GreenEdge's increased success is the strategy implemented in planning the season.
"What GreenEdge have done is structure their season a lot better," said Sunderland, who served as the director of the Australian National Road Series in 2013. "This is a critical strategy that has become a valuable process for GreenEdge management.
"This process started the team's success as the beginning of the year with big wins for Simon Gerrans at both the nationals and the Tour Down Under, and then preparing themselves for the Classics."
Sunderland believes that the inclusion of foreign riders, such as the Swiss Albasini the Great Britian's Yates twins – Adam and Simon as well as Italian Ivan Santaromita, has been a positive step forward for the team.
"There are a lot of fantastic Australian riders out there," said Sunderland. But its great that the management is showing that they are not afraid to sign foreign riders, and that the team is showing that they are not afraid to do the work and ride for foreign riders as well.
"Everybody is part of the team, and as long as its someone wearing the GreenEdge colours then they are working hard for them and that's when you know they are all buying into the system."
With no real general classification hopes for the Giro, or the Tour de France and Vuelta a España to speak of, what of the team's progressive next step towards Grand Tour GC success? Sunderland told Cyclingnews that based on his past experience developing and directing Sky, a GC for Orica-GreenEdge may closer than suspected.
"I remember when we recruited Chris Froome," said Sunderland of the 2013 Tour winner. "We could all see potential was there during testing, but no one could say that they put their hand up and knew he was going to win the Tour de France, I didn't hear anyone say that from the bottom of the organisation to the top. No one knew his full potential."
But could a diamond in the rough already exist on the Orica-GreenEdge roster? Sunderland believes it most certainly could be the case.
"There could be some guys that are a little bit late in maturing and need a little bit of a push to take that step into leadership role and fully take it on," he said. "It could be a Cam Meyer, a young [Michael] Hepburn or even the Yates twins.
"What we are seeing are riders going into their 30s making before making their big step up to Grand Tour GC potential. Typically everyone is looking to the young guys to see if they have got it, and it could be the Yates twins as they have shown some great talent, but just need to see the if their talent is for the Classics, one-week stage races or three-week Grand Tours.
"Riding one day or one week compared to three weeks is a massive difference."
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