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Orica-GreenEdge general manager Shayne Bannan has spoken about recent reports linking Bradley Wiggins and Cadel Evans to possible moves to Orica GreenEdge, playing down such speculation.
The Australian reiterates that the team’s goal is to become a squad that can contend for Grand Tours, but suggests that project is something that could still be a couple of seasons away.
Wiggins is thought to be facing a possible move away from Sky due to that team’s backing of Chris Froome in races such as the Tour de France, as well as due to rumoured tensions between the two Tour de France winners.
Although Wiggins won the Tour de France in 2012, he is by no means guaranteed to gain selection for this year’s race, even though he has said he would love to take part and would agree to ride for Froome.
This too has increased the perceived likelihood that he will change teams.
Media reports have pointed out that Wiggins worked with Orica-GreenEdge sports director Matt White while with Garmin, and the latter has said that he would be open to collaborating with the Briton again.
He recently told the Sydney Morning Herald that he would ‘love to work’ with Wiggins and that he considered him a rider who could fit into the team.
However, when asked about such a move, Bannan said that White’s comments did not mean that a deal had been done, or even that negotiations have been started.
“All I can comment is that I read the article,” he told CyclingTips. “It was really just a question, with a lot of ifs in there. I can confirm that we have not spoken to Brad Wiggins.”
He also confirmed that the team had not been in contact with anyone acting as an agent for Wiggins.
The question about Wiggins was put to White after the team indicated that it was interested in signing a Grand Tour rider for next season. White confirmed that the team was ready to take on a rider capable of contending for victory in one of the three week races, but did not identify who that person might be.
If it is not Wiggins, some have pondered if this rider could be Cadel Evans. The 2011 Tour winner is in the final year of his current contract with the BMC Racing Team and with Orica GreenEdge being Australian, some have seen it as a logical fit.
Bannan pours a little cold water on such suggestions, though. “We haven’t had discussions with Cadel. Cadel has been a great ambassador and still is a great ambassador for Australian cycling and world cycling,” he said. “But he has been really successful in his current team, BMC, and they obviously have a fantastic relationship.
“I would imagine it would be very difficult to get Cadel away from BMC, if that was our intention.”
He suggests that contending for the overall classification in three week races could still be some time off. “I still believe that it is certainly a long-term process to be a Grand Tour team.
“I think we made fairly significant changes this year, being our third year with the contract. We have the Yates brothers and [Esteban] Chaves from Colombia. You could say those signings are the start of that progression.
“Are we ready to bring a GC rider on board? I am not too sure. We are in still in discussion about that. Are we ready as an organisation? Well, we still have a lot of areas we need to progress in. We are doing that this year. There are a lot of discussions taking place. When we make decisions, we will make sure they are good ones.”
The team was previously thought to be interesting in developing Cameron Meyer and seeing if he could become a Grand Tour rider. He has won the Santos Tour Down Under in the past and ridden well in other week-long stage races, taking fifth overall in last year’s Tour of California. However thus far he hasn’t posted results in Grand Tours which point towards contending for titles in the future.
Bannan believes it’s still too soon to say how far he can go. “He is a work in progress. Some people develop quite quickly, other people take a little bit longer. Cameron is still a work in progress.
“He has certainly got the physical attributes to succeed…we certainly believe that is the case. It is just about making sure that the progression is there and that we give him the opportunities. We will see.”
He points out that the team already has riders capable of winning big stage races, referring to Simon Gerrans’ Santos Tour Down Under victory, Pieter Weening’s 2013 Tour de Pologne success and Michael Albasini’s triumph in the 2012 Volta a Catalunya. However the three-week races are definitely on the team’s target list.
“We are certainly looking at developing in the Grand Tours,” he confirmed. “It is very hard to put a time on it – are we going to be a Grand Tour team next year, in two years’ time, in three years’ time? I think it is really important that we are developing, that we continue to develop our younger guys coming through.
“It is certainly the plan in the future to be a competitive Grand Tour team, but I would say it will be later rather than sooner.”
Mixed fortunes at Giro d’Italia, but a success nonetheless:
The team had a real rollercoaster ride at the Giro d’Italia, finishing with just two riders due to crashes and illnesses, but also notching up three stage wins and a lengthy spell in the Maglia Rosa. Orica-GreenEdge was one of the most dominant teams at times, and Bannan believes that the overall picture was a very good one.
“We are happy with the Giro. There is stuff you can control and stuff that you can’t, but I think if you look at it overall, it is good,” he said. “The guys went in there with the objective of doing very well in the team time trial. They achieved that and then they defended the jersey brilliantly in the first week, doing the majority of the work in the bunch.
“The jersey swapped from Tuft to Matthews and then Matthews won a stage. Then you had Pieter Weening winning a stage. We just felt it was an exceptional Giro.
“Okay, you go through the different emotions, having a few guys get sick and having falls and a couple of broken bones, and to finish with just two riders. I wouldn’t say it was disappointing; that sort of stuff happens. It is a little bit out of our control.
“All in all, though, I have to say we are really proud of the guys and we are extremely happy with what they achieved during the Giro.”
The team had its first season in 2012 and while its debut Tour de France was a quiet one, things were a lot better last year with two stage wins and several days in the yellow jersey. That did a lot for the team’s confidence, and Bannan said that the latest achievements at the Giro d’Italia continue that evolution.
“This is all very good for the team,” he said. “We went into the Giro after Gerro had the win in Liège, and we also had Albasini win three stages in Romandie and then young Yates in Turkey. We were certainly on a high going into the Giro.
“We knew that the start of the Giro would suit us and you set your objectives accordingly. We put that pressure and expectation on ourselves as a team; to actually go there and achieve it is something quite pleasing.”
Bannan’s mention of Adam Yates refers to one of the two young British riders the team signed last autumn. The other was his twin brother Simon, and together they are regarded as being amongst the best young cycling talent in the sport.
Adam Yates won a stage plus the overall in the Presidential Tour of Turkey this year, and was also fifth overall in the Tour of California; his brother took a stage plus third overall in the 2013 Tour of Britain, and this year was 12th in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.
Given that they are in their first few months as professional riders, it seems clear that they are major prospects for the future.
“They are young guys in their first year on the WorldTour. Obviously if you look at their history and what they have achieved in the past in the under 23 ranks, it has been quite impressive,” said Bannan.
“That sort of performance has continued this year. We saw Simon in the Tour of Basque country run twelfth on GC and Adam winning Turkey. They are pretty significant performances for kids their age.”
Bannan confirms that they could end up being part of the team’s push for Grand Tour success, but cautions that they need time to develop. “I would expect that their development would track progressively over the next two or three years. Certainly they have big ambitions, as so have we,” he said.
“I would see those two young guys as possible GC contenders. But we need to take it one step at a time…we are talking about in a few years.”
If their progress continues along the current trajectory, though, there are certainly grounds to be optimistic.
Tour de France and world championships:
The team has a number of big targets this season, not least the Tour de France and the world road race championships. As regards the line-up for the former, Bannan confirmed the identities of three riders to CyclingTips; the remaining six will be finalised in the next few weeks.
“We can’t name the whole team but certainly guys like Gerrans, Albasini, Simon Clarke should be there,” he said. “Then the rest…we have got our long squad so we will decide that selection over this next period.”
One of those who seems to have the ability to perform well in the Tour is Michael Matthews. His long spell in the Maglia Rosa in the Giro d’Italia underlines his form, and so too his victory on stage six of the race. Bannan said that it’s possible he too will take part, but that not definite decision has been made just yet.
“Obviously Michael had that fall in the first ten days of the Giro. In effect he only did half the Giro,” he said. “He has recovered well, he is training well at the moment. So we will just monitor Michael and see how he is progressing. He is certainly one of the riders who would be considered, for sure.”
In terms of team goals, Bannan understandably didn’t detail the exact days where the team feels it can shine. However he said that identifying those stages should be somewhat logical. “We will certainly target the stages that will suit us,” he stated. “In terms of which ones those are, you can have a look at the profile and figure that out for yourself..!”
Further ahead, he said that the world road race championships will also be a big objective for the team. The pro races will begin with the team time trial and after Orical GreenEdge’s success against the clock in last year’s Tour de France and in this year’s Giro d’Italia, morale is high.
“We were third and second in the last two editions so we’d like to think that we are going to be competitive again,” he said. “It is certainly going to be a good tussle between ourselves and Quick Step. But I reckon Sky might be pretty competitive this year.”
After that, the time trial and road race. It will likely come too soon this time round, but Bannan believes that 23 year old Luke Durbridge is a rider who can aspire to a rainbow jersey in the individual TT.
“We just need to give him time,” he said. “Luke has won an under 23 time trial title. Give him time to develop his physical attributes over the next couple of years and I think he can be up there….”
That doesn’t mean the team can’t aim for individual success this season. Gerrans won Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year and with a lumpy course expected for the road race, Bannan believes he has earned backing for the event.
“I have certainly heard a lot about the course, although I haven’t personally seen it myself. I’d say it sounds like it will suit Simon. We are certainly going into the world championships taking it very seriously.”