Gerry Ryan, the BRW Rich List member and owner of the professional cycling team Orica-GreenEDGE, says Australia’s main hope in tonight’s Olympics time trial, Michael Rogers, could be poised to spring a surprise on the well-favoured host team, Great Britain.
Rogers is the only Australian left in the time trial field after the withdrawal of former Tour de France champion Cadel Evans on Monday.
Evans cited heavy fatigue for pulling out of the race and with no other credentialled time trialists in the Australian team, Rogers will compete by himself.
Ryan, who is in London for the Olympics after travelling with the Orica-GreenEDGE team during its maiden Tour de France race, says Rogers is in good shape.
“Mick had a really good Tour [racing for the Sky team] and he has set himself up for this,” Ryan says. “He’s very keen to do well.”
Rogers’ Australian Olympic teammate Matthew Goss, who competed in the road race before leaving London, says it is tough for the field to overcome the British team, which features the Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and runner-up Chris Froome.
“They will be hard,” Goss says.
“And then you have Fabian Cancellara, who should be OK after crashing in the road race the other day, and world time trial champion Tony Martin from Germany. But I think [Rogers] could be up there challenging for fourth or fifth position and maybe even higher. You never know.” Goss rides for Orica-GreenEDGE on the professional circuit and just missed out on winning several stages of the Tour de France this year, especially early in the race.
But Ryan says he was largely satisfied with the team’s first Tour. “I think we will learn a lot from it. We were probably a bit unlucky, but you make your own luck when it comes to these sort of things.
“Our tactics were probably a bit predictable at times, but we won a lot of respect from other teams and the wider cycling community.”
Ryan says that respect could extend to new recruits for next year’s professional circuit. Having used a roster of 30 this year, the team will cut back to 28 in 2013.
It is probable three riders will leave the team, Ryan says, meaning there is space for one more. He is yet to officially seal any deals, but he hopes the new rider will be an experienced Australian.
He also hopes to sign more sponsors for the team next year, and still has about 30 per cent of the inventory to fill.
Ryan says there has been interest in joining the likes of Orica as a team sponsor – Orica chief executive Ian Smith travelled with the team for the last week of the Tour – and he hopes to have successfully negotiated the deals by the end of the year.
One bright spot for Ryan at the Tour de France was the popularity of his team among spectators. “We sold out of merchandise 10 of the days and we were the second-highest sellers behind Sky,” he says.
“We got a huge boost from all the Australians we saw en route.”
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