The serious climbs in the biggest races are the next challenge for top Australian cycling team Orica-GreenEDGE.
By
AAP

7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:35 PM

And they plan to keep developing potential Grand Tour contenders from their own ranks, with general manager Shayne Bannan non-committal on whether they might chase Tasmanian Richie Porte.

The first Australian team to compete at the Tour de France has enjoyed consistent results since their 2012 debut, with number one rider Simon Gerrans and new star Michael Matthews securing a string of big wins.

Gerrans' absence with a broken collarbone and Matthews' European program leaves them in the rare position this month of starting the season on the back foot.

For the first time since their inception, they failed to win a gold medal at last weekend's Australian road titles and they will have to temper their ambitions at next week's Tour Down Under.

But it is a minor pothole for a team blessed with a strong crop of young talent.

Their next frontier this season is having riders who can climb consistently well in the three Grand Tours - the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana.

Australian Simon Clarke won the king of the mountain category in the 2012 Vuelta, while Colombian Esteban Chavez and English brothers Simon and Adam Yates showed strong potential last year on the hillier stages of shorter tours.

But generally, Orica-GreenEDGE so far have not been a team for the big climbs.

"The next progression is to show our faces in the hard stages of the Grand Tours," Bannan said.

He is also wary of saying when GreenEDGE might finally have a Grand Tour contender.

"How long does it take to really develop a person into a Grand Tour rider?," Bannan said.

"It depends on their physiology, their learning capabilities.

"Is it two years' time, three years' time?

"But it's something we are consistently working on."

Porte comes out of contract after this season and is aiming for a return to form after last year was ruined by illness.

He won last week's Australian time trial championship and is one of the Tour Down Under favourites.

The Tasmanian's main objective will be to lead Sky at the Giro.

"There would be a number of teams out there who would be pretty eager I reckon to get him on the books," Bannan said.

"As well, Sky would be pretty eager to keep him.

"For the moment, we're just concentrating on the guys we have and have control over."

Asked if his team might also throw their hat into the ring for Porte, Bannan said: "we're not sure yet."