Did the opening round of the Bay Cycling Classic provide a clue as to what may unfold this Sunday in Buninyong? Anthony Tan examines the possibility of something other than a GreenEDGE clean sweep.
By
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM


I think they were pretty desperate to win today but when you've got so many riders in a group like that, it sort of almost works against you

Could Greg Henderson's remarks about GreenEDGE extend to the situation
the team will face this Sunday in Buninyong? Or do we cut them some
slack and say it'll take a few races to get themselves sorted out, and
that by Sunday, everything will be sorted?

While four are
racing under the 'Mitchelton Wines/Lowe Farms' moniker at the Jayco Bay
Cycling Classic in Victoria, out of an 11-team, 53-man field, nine
riders are contracted to GreenEDGE for the 2012 season. In theory, they
have twice as many chances to win as the other nine teams competing in
the four-race series.

Raced at warp speed Sunday evening, just 15
men finished the Geelong opener. Five were from GreenEDGE and three of
those from the Mitchelton Wines/Lowe Farms outfit, with Allan Davis,
racing for the latter, best-placed, finishing in third spot behind
Henderson and Chris Sutton (Urban Hotels).

It will now take a
minor miracle for a rider from the actual GreenEDGE team to win the
Jayco Bay Cycling Classic title (although Davis, who finished second
Monday and is the overall leader after two races, no doubt stands a good
chance).

The series is raced on points and as history has shown
it rewards the most consistent sprinter – and GreenEDGE's two biggest
hitters, Matthew Goss and Robbie McEwen, did not figure in the finale of
Sunday's race. (Leigh Howard, who ran 8th, was their best-placed man
and remains so after Monday's second round, but dropped to 12th on the
overall standings.)

* * *

This Sunday at the Mars Cycling
Australia Road National Championships, the elite men's road race will be
contested, and out of a 165-rider field, 16 will be sporting GreenEDGE
lycra.

In other words, GreenEDGE has a near 1-in-10 chance of
claiming the coveted green-and-gold-striped jersey, and if you go off
what race director John Craven said, who remarked that "any one of 50
riders can win without surprising", then those odds reduce to roughly
1-in-3.

Should they win, that rider is virtually assured a place
in this year's Tour de France. Before a pedal is turned in anger, there
are fewer better publicity vehicles than having the current national
champion on the first Aussie ProTeam lining up to ride the world's
biggest bike race.

As I told my distinguished colleague Mike Tomalaris on Cycling Central
last Sunday, GreenEDGE's strength in numbers will certainly favour the
nascent Aussie outfit in Buninyong, and should you be a betting man, one
would certainly tip one of their riders to win. After all, they have
more leaders and more domestiques than anyone else, right?

Following
the opening round of the Bay Classic, however, examining what happened
and reading Henderson's comments, I'm not quite as sure.

Will
GreenEDGE simply have too many chiefs and an overdose of Indians to
effectively prosecute their race strategy? Will other teams collaborate
and gang up on GreenEDGE to ensure one of their riders does not win,
regardless of the team they come from? Will a savvy outsider, in the
form of his life, use his nous to play off the ProTeam riders and let
them do all the work, then watch them attack and counter-attack each
other, before launching a winning move of his own?

Indeed,
besides weather and terrain, there are so many more race variables that
it is my belief a GreenEDGE clean sweep of the podium is unlikely; I
think we will see a highly competitive race among riders from a
multitude of teams, rather than a race dominated by one team per se.

* * *

Still, one can't ignore what transpired at the British road championships last June.

In
a 197km race and on a circuit comparable in difficulty to Buninyong,
the Team Sky riders – who fielded nine men in a 77-rider field – broke
the race apart on the first lap and established what would turn out to
be a winning move of 12 men. Half were from Team Sky.

They
further controlled the race from that point on and in the final lap,
Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh – all from Team Sky –
broke away and in earnest, battled out the Championship of Britain
between themselves. Wiggins proved triumphant, adding to his national
time trial victory won the previous September. Four out of the first
seven places were occupied by riders from Team Sky.

Should
GreenEDGE display complete and utter dominance in Buninyong like Team
Sky did at their national championship, Craven told Cycling Central
it may require a rethink: "It's something we'll have to look at
following this year's road race, [to see] if it does have a massive
impact," he said.

"Look, common sense [shows] they've got enormous firepower […] I just want a wonderfully competitive race," said Craven.

So do I. Regardless, for this Sunday at least, it's most definitely GreenEDGE's to lose.

Twitter: @anthony_tan