The Australian cycling public’s relentless pursuit to unearth the next Cadel is placing undue pressure on those with potential but no proof of being Grand Tour riders, let alone winners, writes Anthony Tan.
At the end of next year, ninety-five per cent of our riders are up for contract (renewals). I can’t see a lot of changes.To be brutally frank, I’m a bit tired of hearing Cameron Meyer being billed ad nauseam as our next Grand Tour winner-in-waiting.
Actually, I’m even sick of him being billed as a Grand Tour rider.
“We just want Cam to be consistent,” Shayne Bannan, Orica-GreenEDGE general manager, told me a few days before the start of this year’s Vuelta a Espana, asked what’s expected of the 24-year-old West Australian.
“We want him to learn from the other GC riders in other teams. Cam has shown during the year, especially with his tenth (overall) placing in Tirreno-(Adriatico), that he has good potential in this area. (The Vuelta) is part of his apprenticeship. There’s certainly no pressure on Cam to finish in the top ten at the Vuelta this year. We’re just after consistency, and we want him to learn as much as possible.”
So, according to Bannan, Meyer has the potential to be a stage race rider, which I agree with, but whether that means week long tours or three-week tours, does anyone really know?
Over the two weeks he raced before calling it quits to concentrate on the inaugural team time trial at the upcoming road world championships, his GC placing from Stages 1-15 went something like this: 55th – 52nd – 73rd – 109th – 122nd – 143rd – 141st – 95th – 106th – 122nd – 108th – 101st – 93rd – 98th – 106th.
That last standing was equivalent to being one hour and forty minutes behind race leader Joaquim Rodríguez of Katusha.
In Spain the triple points race world champion, who only hung up his fixie for good in April, a few days after this year’s track worlds in Melbourne, discovered before too long riding GC at a Grand Tour was harder than expected.
Consequently, Meyer’s ambitions changed tack.
He attempted to nab a stage win in the vein of teammate Simon Clarke, who won the fourth stage to the ski station of Valdezcaray in emphatic style. He came close, just missing out on the eighth stage to Andorra/Collada de la Gallina (had the break cooperated better, he may well have got there), then, in between a creditable eighth place in the Pontevedra time trial, tried in vain two more times before choosing not to start the brutal sixteenth stage to Cuitu Negru, described by Euskatel-Euskadi’s Igor Anton as “one of the most difficult races of my life”.
To me, the whole idea of Meyer being able to keep up with the likes of Rodríguez, Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde, even on one major mountain stage at the Vuelta, always sounded a bit far-fetched.
Okay, he’s moved his European base from Girona to Andorra to concentrate on his climbing, but in my estimation, it will take at least three more years before we discover if he can truly match these mountain men, and do it consistently.
As Jeff, a Cycling Central reader, cautiously observed under an article on this website on August 30, pre-emptively titled ‘Meyer a Grand Tour winner in the making’:
“Winning a Grand Tour – possible but we will have to wait and see, possibly when he hits 30. He will have tough opposition. Talansky (USA) is 23 and currently 8th on GC at Vuelta and was 2nd at Tour de Romandie. We all know about Tejay VG (age 23). Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands) is only 21 and has finished top 10 GC and 1st in the Young Riders classification at T. California, Dauphine and T. Denmark in 2012. Meyer is 24: gotta beat Gesink 26, Mollema 25, Nibali 27, Froome 27, Contador 29 etc.”
There’s also at least three other Aussies who may blossom better and/or faster than Meyer: Richie Porte (27), Luke Durbridge (21), Rohan Dennis (22), and Lachlan Morton (20).
It’s impossible to say if any will make the grade, even Porte, who finished sixth overall and best young rider at the 2010 Giro d’Italia, his first Grand Tour. From what I’ve seen proven Grand Tour ability comes only when a rider enters said race as a team leader and three weeks later, leaves it with his name on the leader board.
Still, Meyer has time. Asked if Orica-GreenEDGE’s Grand Tour plans will be brought forward, particularly in light of Team Sky’s success with Bradley Wiggins this July, Bannan responded: “I must admit, not at this stage. We’re still looking long-term, and developing some of the younger members in the group for GC aspirations.
“I’d say we’d definitely be going into next season and the season after with specific concentration on smaller tours, on developing young GC riders, and Classics. So that’s what our focus we be. That (targeting GC at a Grand Tour) could be two, three, four years away.”
While we’re on the subject of GreenEDGE you may be interested to know that Bannan also told me just two out of the team’s thirty riders are up for contract renewal at the end of the year: Canadian Christian Meier and South African stalwart Daryl Impey. “At the end of next year, ninety-five per cent of our riders are up for contract (renewals). So, I can’t see a lot of changes till the end of next year,” he said.
With Michael ‘Bling’ Matthews joining the team in 2013 that means either Meier or Impey has to go, as each of the eighteen competing WorldTour teams can only field a maximum thirty men. Meier has been underwhelming this season though Impey not, performing domestique duties well and winning a stage in the Tour of the Basque Country and at the Tour of Slovenia.
In recent weeks speculation has been rife that uber-sprinter Mark Cavendish will leave Team Sky... Can GreenEDGE afford him? Could the rest of the team tolerate such a dominant personality – would he fit in? Importantly, being with the de facto British equivalent, would Cav’ want to ride for a team with so much Aussie DNA?
Doesn’t sound that implausible, does it?