Sunday, 12 January 2014

So, You win Again!

 I'm not going to win myself too many friends among the Australian cycling fraternity when I say I am not a fan of the Orica-Greenedge set-up. Something about the Australian owned and sponsored team shrieks pretentiousness and promotes a seemingly elitist attitude in the sport and leaves much scope for conflict of interest inside the administrative departments of cycle racing in this country.

 Now, I have not been on the inside of the sport for a long time now and I am merely observing operations from the ranks of interested outsiders but the result of the National road title which was contested in Bunninyong near Ballarat today only confirms my disdain for Australia's only World Tour team.

 Simon Gerrans is an outstanding bike rider and rode a great race but my dislike of the team he rides for colours my opinion of him as cyclist. He has always been, for me at least, a talented opportunist but that being said, he has won some outstanding bike races in Europe including the Milan to San Remo classic and stages in the Tour de France as well as leading the race for a short time last year. But he is still a rung below the greatest champions we have produced although many will disagree with me.

 Gerrans was obviously going very well today. He looks very fit and made the race by attacking up Mt Bunninyong on the race's final lap and riding a very canny race with the help of his last remaining team mate, Cameron Meyer. He sets himself for this race every year with his ultimate goal being the Tour DownUnder which starts in Adelaide later this week.

 Australia's greatest ever roadman, Cadel Evans rode a terrific race one out to finish second with Richie Porte, Australia's other great Grand Tour rider rounding out the podium. It is fair to say that neither of this pair looked at the peak of their fitness so their results are very good. Still, it would have been nice to see Cadel Evans wear the national champions jersey in what may very well be his last season in the professional ranks.

 Which brings me back to my original gripe.

 I don't like summer road racing. The whole sport has been shaken up so much in the last twenty years that summer road racing and criteriums have become the races of choice for the rank and file of Australia's cycling fraternity at this time of year to the detriment of track racing. A situation which is a tragedy.

 The national title has certainly become a big deal but the last three years has seen a potentially huge problem manifest itself. A problem which will only get worse in the years to come. Too many Greenedge riders are allowed to ride it.

 Sure, you can't tell a number of guys they can't come and ride the national road race title but the experience of having twelve to eighteen of the same team of world ranked professionals riding the race every year is overkill. They can control the race or strangle it at will as they did today. No other team can stand up to them.

 That is taking nothing away from Simon Gerrans who deserved his victory and realistically Evans and Porte had every chance but just weren't good enough on the day. But I think it is time to cap the numbers of riders of competing teams on the day of the race. An unpopular decision it would be but one which would make the race a much fairer contest.

 I would only allow six riders a team and I can already imagine the squeals of disdain coming from the hierarchy of Greenedge and certain other ex-professional riders if a decision like that was made.

 One powerful team would not be able to muscle their opponents as much and would have to husband their strength and be a lot more attentive and smart. And who knows, a canny outsider may even win the day under such circumstance.

 It's not likely to happen any time soon.

 So I will continue to monitor the sport from afar and try to warm to the nationalistic, jingoistic fair which Orica-Greenedge serves up and try to refrain from commenting on several nefarious characters who are in positions of authority within the team.

 And next year, when once again they have taken a stranglehold on the national road race title, I will try to be happy and raise a cheer for Australia's first and only World Tour team.

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