GreenEDGE project a marathon, not sprint

Shayne Bannan at the GreenEDGE launch in Adelaide earlier this year. Photo: GETTY
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As the Spring Classics near a close the world is once again lauding the talent and success of Australian professional cyclists. 

To be honest, to say that we’re going to be competitive in Grand Tours in year X -whether it’s 2012, 2013 - is probably a bit of an unrealistic goal.

As the Spring Classics near a close the world is once again lauding the talent and success of Australian professional cyclists.

Milan-San Remo champion Matt Goss leads the world rankings ahead of Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix with two compatriots in Tirreno-Adriatico champion Cadel Evans (fifth) and Tour Down Under victor Cameron Meyer (eighth) in the top 10.

But as the nation continues to forge its name as a cycling powerhouse GreenEdge general manager Shayne Bannan insists the race to establish a successful Australian-based WorldTour team is a marathon and not a sprint.

“To be honest, to say that we’re going to be competitive in Grand Tours in year X -whether it’s 2012, 2013 - is probably a bit of an unrealistic goal,” Bannan said.

“I think developing into a world class team that can put riders on the podium in Grand Tours that’s pretty underestimated. It certainly takes years of development of a team to be able to do that. We’re a great believer in processes and certainly, if you think long term, one of the aims would be to develop into a Grand Tour winning team of course, but I think it really will take three to four years of development to achieve that, maybe even more.”

Bannan is working behind the scenes laying the foundation for what he hopes will be a top 10 WorldTour team next season.

GreenEDGE last month announced an equipment partnership with Scott Sports for its men’s, women’s and Continental Jayco AIS team and the organisation has committed funding up until 2013. But Bannan said it will take more than finance to be included and then survive in cycling’s top tier.

“It’s not about going up to riders after the 1st of August and throwing a big cheque at them,” he said.

“It’s about the quality and the infrastructure and the people within the program. We’re entering a whole new world. There are 18 teams currently in the WorldTour and we’ll have to be good enough to knock one of those teams out. It’s not an easy task.”

The GreenEDGE men’s cycling team aims to be comprised largely of Australian riders, up to 75 per cent, with the Jayco AIS Continental outfit serving as a non-exclusive feeder team.

The role of the Continental team as a feeder will arguably sustain the number of Australians that could represent the proposed GreenEDGE outfit – similar but different to the model the British-based team Sky operates on.

“The Sky model is very integrated within the national program whereas the model we’re looking at - and I don’t really know enough about the Sky program to be able to comment totally - is more a separate entity but with very strong commercial relationships with Cycling Australia and the AIS,” Bannan said.

“We have enormous respect for the current teams in the WorldTour. We certainly look at their model, their structure, the way they go about their business and get a lot of ideas from those organisations.

“There’s been a lot of work done on building the structure, which is critical. There’s a number of teams out there that we look at. For sustainability you can’t go past Rabobank can you? They’re obviously doing something right. Around 15 years, maybe more, they’ve been in the top league and that’s a real credit to their structure so we look at them certainly and the key to their success in sustainability.”

Bannan also added HTC-Highroad, Sky for its scientific approach, Leopard Trek and Garmin-Cervelo to the list.

"There’s a lot of camaraderie in Leopard," he said.

"They’re a group of athletes that really enjoy each others company so I certainly admire that in the way that group has come together."

Exactly who will represent the proposed GreenEdge remains unknown but Bannan said it would look to sign and build the outfit around two to three marquee riders to fulfil licence requirements but also be competitive.

“How achievable that is time well tell during the year but certainly given the points required, given the quality of riders needed to gain WorldTour status one would suggest you’d need at least two or three high quality riders,” he said.

“We’d be looking at all-round riders, riders that can perform extremely well in classics, riders that can perform in stages in the Giro, the Tour, the Vuelta and riders that can win smaller tours.”

Bannan said the organisation would look to employ multinational staff.

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