• The KordaMentha team at the Tour Down Under celebrating their best team win there (Getty)Source: Getty
Jamie Finch-Penninger considers the conspiracy theory that the national team was riding to not beat Orica-Scott and on prima facie evidence, there is a case to answer.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
10 Feb 2017 - 11:47 AM  UPDATED 10 Feb 2017 - 12:04 PM

It was undeniably a strong week for the KordaMentha national team at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour but many asked the question whether it did enough to unseat Orica-Scott’s Damien Howson from the top of the podium.

The team had a firm hand heading into the final stage and with five riders within striking distance of the lead, many expected a display of aggression throughout the stage. But the national team did not make a single move, a point runner-up Jai Hindley defended. 

“We wanted to consolidate the second on GC, at the end of the day it was going to be pretty hard to move up. We did what we could and had a good crack, I’m sure the other guys are happy with the result as well.”

The conspiracy theory runs that the national team was riding not to beat Orica-Scott and on prima facie evidence, there is a case to answer. At least four of the seven members of the team will be on the Orica-Scott continental feeder team, Michelton-Scott this year but waited to register with the outfit until after the Herald Sun Tour to avoid the rules that prevent riders associated with another team in the race colluding.

That in itself is not uncommon. A similar situation with Chris Hamilton last season saw him not register to ride with the then Avanti IsoWhey team until after the race so he could compete with the national team.

But the difference is the majority of riders and staff with Orica-Scott affiliation was disproportionately skewed with Michelton-Scott sports director James Victor and Orica-Scott consultant Dave Sanders calling the shots from the car. 

Put that together with the lack of attacking racing when in a strong position to force the issue and there is fuel for the fire on the conspiracy tack.

However, this does need to be countered by the particular circumstances of the race.

Each member of a national team essentially wants to show themselves in their best possible light so they can move on to bigger things in the future. Nobody would be keen to throw away a top position on GC with a suicidal attack.

For the coaching staff a result of five in the top eight for what is essentially a development team is a superb return on investment and there’s no reason to threaten that status quo.

It's also important to consider the characters at play here. KordaMentha riders after the stage were keen to talk about moving up in the general classification. Team staff rejected out of hand the notion of collusion between the national team and Orica-Scott with sports director.

“We don’t do things that way," James Victor said.

Young riders are keen to take their opportunity to show themselves against the likes of Froome and Chaves and it is hard to imagine senior riders Nathan Earle and Cameron Meyer toeing the line of an Orica-Scott agenda.

OK so no actual conspiracy may exist. But these sorts of conflicts of interest shouldn’t be as obvious.

You can’t trust in the professionalism of everyone at all times and there are reasons there are rules against riders affiliated with other teams. The temptation to collude is almost irresistible.

Hopefully this does not overshadow what was a series of strong performances by the whole squad over the five stages of racing, arguably out-performing two World Tour squads.

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