It is true that we in media sometimes focus too much on the negative. If it bleeds it leads, and this year the sport of cycling spent more time on the ground bleeding than a Euskaltel-Euskadi rider.
While the teams, superstars and the politics in the sport give us a daily diet of controversy to chew on there is a danger that we lose sight of the many good moments.
At the Jayco 2012 Australian Cyclist of the Year Awards held in Sydney a couple of weeks ago, we celebrated the best of the best, including the remarkable Anna Meares, but what resonated with me was a speech given by Orica-GreenEDGE supremo Gerry Ryan, who briefly took the cycling media to task for not focusing on the good stuff.
Now I’m no cheerleader for anyone, leaving it to others in the media to drink the Kool-Aid and do the public relations that so many sports bosses seem to think is their right, but I get where Ryan is coming from.
The late season shenanigans surrounding the Lance Armstrong saga has driven us all to the brink and pushed many of the good news stories aside. One of those was the performance of Ryan’s Orica-GreenEDGE team, which had a season that could only be classified as an absolute success.
The team gave Australian fans a number of unforgettable moments during its debut season. Simon Gerrans’s performances at the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships, Santos Tour Down Under and of course Milan San Remo stand out.
Michael Albasini, Luke Durbridge and Simon Clarke also performed at an incredibly high level and were well supported by a strong cast of characters. I won’t recount their exploits because you already know about them, but there are some other collective numbers worth looking at.
Orica GreenEDGE’s riders averaged a well balanced 56 race days this year, with Clarke, Sebastian Langeveld, Albasini, Allan Davis, Matt Goss and Leigh Howard the ironmen of the team at more than 70 race days each.
The workhorse of the squad was Langeveld, who saddled up for 78 race days and 12,558km. By comparison, Lotto-Belisol’s Adam Hansen racked up 103 race days and 16,025km this year, completing all three Grand Tours.
Even though the year didn’t end well for him, I’d argue the team was superbly managed by Matt White and his roster of sporting directors. They always appeared organised on the road, taking their chances when they came and riding with purpose. Importantly, no rider looked cooked at the end of the season and that bodes well for 2013.
However bike racing, like every other sport, is about the numbers in the win column and as you can see in the infographic (data sourced from Cycling Quotient) below, Orica GreenEDGE ticked that box regularly.
You don’t have to look too far back to find some context for Orica GreenEDGE’s accomplishment. Team Sky, 2010.
The British outfit took 22 victories in its debut UCI WorldTour season along with 23 second placings and 27 thirds for a total of 72 podium spots in what was regarded at the time as a somewhat disappointing start by many. It only took Sky three years from its first race to post a Tour de France victory.
Looking at the numbers from Sky’s 2010 season, it’s pretty hard to argue that Orica GreenEDGE’s debut has been anything but a standout.
Of course the expectations will be higher next season but general manager Shayne Bannan does have a well articulated long-range plan that should weather any sophomore slump.