It's been in the pipeline for sometime, but Orica-GreenEDGE appears to be closer than ever to bringing on a rider capable of winning Grand Tours - or so Matt White told Cycling Central Tuesday.
By
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

If indeed perennial straight-shooter White isn't pulling anyone's leg, it'd be a marked change in direction for a team that has prided itself on maximising the potential of its meager resources on stage wins, classics, and team time trials.

Like few teams before them, Orica-GreenEDGE have managed to garner unparallelled success through dominating the first week, nay, 10 days of a Grand Tour, without the presence of a bona fide contender or indeed top-tier sprinter. In a lot of ways they've carved themselves a niche that few teams had concerned themselves with previously, a sort of meld of all-round sprinters and TT specialists that nets themselves success in targeted stages.

But we always knew that Gerry Ryan had been nursing ambitions of bigger and better. Ryan's appetite for a Grand Tour win under an Orica-GreenEDGE banner was publicly announced at last year's Tour de France, and it was rumoured then that he'd be dipping into his pocket to fork out for a bona fide contender as early as 2014.

Alas, that did not happen, but talks were well-advanced with several high profile riders.

After the success of a Orica-GreenEDGE's Giro, there is obvious temptation to say that a Grand Tour rider with runs on the board is the only arrow missing in the team's quiver, and the time is now.

But is it? Let's stop for a minute and take stock.

This team has evolved substantially from its inception as a team of unblooded track riders direct from the AIS and veterans leaning into the end of their careers. Orica-GreenEDGE in 2014 is now an eclectic mix of young talent and proven winners that's well-balanced, and with realistic prospects across the year.

The Yates brothers have been brilliant additions, Esteban Chaves, Michael Hepburn, and Luke Durbridge will only get better in 2015, while Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews will keep chiming in with wins when they're called upon.

Yates and Chaves are still someway off winning Grand Tours (they may never) but they have huge promise, and at the moment have a carrot in front of them, future Grand Tour leadership.

So then, if Orica-GreenEDGE is to bring in a Grand Tour rider, it's going to have to be someone post-30 with experience, allowing them to act mentor, seriously challenge for Grand Tours immediately, while also creating a natural void when they retire in the years that follow.

The rider would have to meld into the existing team's setup; Orica isn't exactly flush with climbing stock, so they'd have to be able to carry themselves in the high mountains if called upon.

And English speaking should be the preference, more in line with team's Anglo-image, more accessible, more marketable.

It's a rather short list then of potential candidates, but three names standout.

Bradley Wiggins could, I believe, still win a Grand Tour. 2015 would be his last chance, particularly if he is going to focus on the track for Rio. He has huge experience, is well-liked, if slightly introverted, and Orica offers a chance to get away from the Team Sky circus.

Richie Porte could be another. For Porte a move to Orica would be an opportunity he's yet to be afforded at Team Sky while Chris Froome remains top-dog, a chance to target the Tour. Porte is less Grand Tour proven than Wiggins, but as an Australian that's more than made up for.

And, last but not least, reportedly out of contract with BMC at the end of the year, Cadel Evans is available, and evidenced from this year's Giro, he's clearly still got fight in his legs yet. Evans's marketing pull for the team would be huge, but there'd also be the threat he'd eclipse the team's individual brand. Orica has built its reputation away from Evans, and by aligning itself there'd be the possibility that the much of that work would be washed away.

And then there are the dark horses.

Dan Martin and Geraint Thomas would both be solid options for Orica, while Mathias Frank, Robert Gesink or Laurens Ten Dam could all be viable.

Still, don't be too disappointed if it doesn't come off in 2015. Orica is looking, stronger, and younger than ever, and a Grand Tour rider would be a luxury rather than a necessity for its outlook going forward. If they can find the right fit, sure, go ahead. But rocking the boat, a model of success, without good reason, would be folly.