Bannan on GreenEdge: ‘We are two-three years away from a GC Tour team’

GreenEdge officials will be on their edge of their seats in the coming days as the team waits for news if it earns a ProTeam license for its debut season next year.

GreenEdge's Shayne Bannan. AFP PHOTO/MARK GUNTER

GreenEdge officials will be on their edge of their seats in the coming days as the team waits for news if it earns a ProTeam license for its debut season next year.

The Aussie-backed team is throwing its hat in the ring to gain one of the available ProTeam licenses that are up for grabs for the 2012 season. The team is hoping to become the first Australian-supported squad to race the Tour and key to those hopes is acquiring a ProTeam license that would assure them entree into the season’s most important events.

By November 1, the UCI will confirm 15 ProTeam squads for the coming season, while the remainder of the teams will duke it out in front of the ProTeam commission for the final three spots.

VeloNews caught up with GreenEdge team manager Shayne Bannan as the team hits the homestretch in what’s been nearly a year of behind-the-scenes work to pull the team together. Here’s what he had to say about the Tour de France and why the team isn’t focusing on the GC come July:

Q. From ground zero to the Tour de France, how big of a challenge has that been?

A. The first big challenge is to get the (ProTeam) license. We’ve been building at it for about the past 12 months, with the team operations and the service corps. One thing we were quite conscious of that a lot of the guys we were targeting were coming from very good teams, so we had to offer them something quite special to make them move across. And it wasn’t just financial. We had to present them something that they feel will add value to their career. It’s been a very good process. It’s been nearly 10 months now. We’ve still got a long way to go to get this team at a Tour de France level. We believe we’ve got the talent to have a very aggressive Tour de France. We still have a lot of work to do in terms of operations and organization.

Q. The team’s first race will be the Australian national champs, no pressure there?

A. The first race will be the Bay series, then the nationals and then the Tour Down Under, so no pressure there (laughs). It’s a great way to start. We plan on having a membership program, with VIPs and merchandizing, to be able to start with a month of racing in your home country, it’s something we’re going to take full advantage of.

Q. The team is being built on the pillars of the sprinters, does the team have a GC option for the Tour?

A. No. We will have GC options for smaller tours, such as the Tour Down Under, California, Eneco Tour, races such as that, Tour of Poland. 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.

Q. Is that because there were not many GC riders available on the market or is it more in line with the philosophy of the team?

A. That’s the result of common sense. To have a Tour GC team, you don’t buy that, that’s something that you develop and build. That’s going to take us two or three years to develop that. We would be kidding ourselves if we bought a GC rider for the grand tours, that’s just being realistic. We’re about building a team, not buying a team. It will be two, three, four years before we can target a GC rider.

Q. One of the big dreams of team owner Gerry Ryan was to have the first Aussie Tour winner, that’s not available anymore with Evans winning this year’s Tour …

A. That’s great, isn’t it? What Cadel has done for Australian cycling by winning the Tour de France is something special and we thank him for it.

Q. Is the team looking at signing more riders or is the squad pretty much filled out?

A. We’re in a stop zone, we’ll see what happens over the next couple of weeks. If we do get the ProTeam license, we will likely go with 30 riders.

Q. There are some people who believe new start-ups should do one year at the Pro Continental level before going to ProTeam level, what’s your view on that?

A. That’s a fair point, if you were starting out from zero in the cycling industry and wanted to develop into the WorldTour. This project, in effect, has been 20 years in the making. We’ve got a lot of experienced people. We have hand-picked people who have been in the industry for a long time. We believe we have put together a team that will be competitive on the WorldTour in all aspects, both on and off the bike.

Q. How would you define successful Tour for the team assuming it goes next year?

A. Our aim isn’t to just be there. Our aim is to have people talking about GreenEdge in a positive manner. If that’s by race aggression, by getting results, having a go, that would be a success for us.