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SAN REMO, Italy (VN) — GreenEdge was confident it would win some big races in its debut season, but it never expected to open the 2012 campaign with such panache.
The new Aussie outfit has won five races so far this season, with three of those coming thanks to Simon Gerrans. Three of the team’s seven other top-three finishes also come thanks to Gerrans, who comes into the year with the best form of his life.
“I couldn’t ask for a better way to win with GreenEdge,” Gerrans said. “This is just the best way to thank Gerry Ryan and the Ryan family, and the likes of Shayne Bannan, who’s worked hard to pull the team together. To win one of the monuments, it’s a perfect way to say thank you to those guys.”
GreenEdge is still hunting for a title sponsor and its hot start to the year should help bolster those efforts.
Gerrans is one of 18 Australians filling out the 30-rider roster for the first Australian-backed and funded team to hit the elite peloton. The 31-year-old winner of stages in each of the grand tours has certainly held up his end of the bargain. Gerrans opened the season by winning the Australian road title and then the overall at the Tour Down Under, delivering victory when GreenEdge had all the pressure to win.
His victory at Milan-San Remo confirms his arrival to the big-time and helps prove that GreenEdge deserves its spot in the bunch.
“If we have a start to the season like this again, I will be pretty happy,” director Matt White said. “Winning the home race (Tour Down Under), winning the team time trial (Tirreno-Adriatico), winning Milan-San Remo, it’s been a dream start.”
Svein Tuft, one of the 12 non-Australian riders on the team, said the ambiance on the squad is unlike anything he’s seen.
“This team is great. With the Aussies, there’s a lot of joking and laughing, but when it’s time to race, they’re serious,” Tuft said. “That’s the way it should be.”
Winning races like Milan-San Remo, individual stages and the GC in smaller stage races is just what the team expects in its debut season.
Team boss Bannan said they hope to develop a strong GC rider for the grand tours in the coming years and is content to take a patient hand in what he labels as a long-term project.
“We will have GC options for smaller tours, such as the Tour Down Under, California, Eneco Tour, races such as that, Tour of Poland,” Bannan told VeloNews in an earlier interview. “As far as GC goes, we’re two or three years away from being a GC team for the Tour. The foundation of the team now will be classics, sprints and smaller tours.”
Following Matt Goss’ win last year, Gerrans’ is the second straight by an Australian at Milan-San Remo (no Aussie had won “La Primavera” before Goss). Those wins come on the heels of other such firsts as Stuart O’Grady’s Paris-Roubaix and Cadel Evans’ win last year at the Tour de France.
When asked what significance two Australian victories at Milan-San Remo carries, White said it’s the new world power structure showing its colors.
“It’s global cycling. Cycling’s changing,” he said. “It’s really big for Australia and I am very proud, man.”