GreenEDGE announces sponsor

GreenEDGE takes its next big step today with the announcement of its title sponsor. Gerry Ryan, the team’s co-founder, will reveal the new partner at 10:30 in Melbourne.

The team has made Australia proud so far: it’s first top-level team in Europe and wins in Tour Down Under, Milan-San Remo and the Volta a Catalunya.

“We’re really proud with how it’s gone so far this season,” General Manager Shayne Bannan said in Liège, ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. “With the wins, Gerrans in San Remo, we couldn’t have asked for more.”

Bannan first talked with Ryan about creating the team in 2010. Ryan and his son, Andrew have been involved in cycling for a long time, mostly through third-division team Jayco. They bank-rolled GreenEDGE through its initial phases last year and its debut this year, an annual budget estimated at 12.5-15m (€10-12m).

It’s paid off. The success has been thanks to a focus on one-day race wins, stages and small tours. As Bannan put it, “It’s about being realistic. Building a GC team for Grand Tours is a big strain on your budget.” He said that in the next three years the team could change its focus to the overall of a Grand Tour.

At 10:30am AEST Gerry Ryan will be holding a press conference in Melbourne announcing GreenEDGE’s new major sponsor. Who will it be?

What they’ve won so far:
Aussie RR: Simon Gerrans
Aussie TT: Luke Durbridge
Tour Down Under: Simon Gerrans
Tirreno-Adriatico team time trial
Milan-San Remo: Simon Gerrans
Volta a Catalunya (stage 1, 2 and overall): Michael Albasini
Tour of the Basque Country stage 2: Daryl Impey
Circuit de la Sarthe (TT and overall): Luke Durbridge

The women’s team has won eight times, including the Tour of Flanders with Judith Arndt.

Wiggins on Tour track

Bradley Wiggins is following in Cadel Evans’ footsteps ahead of the Tour de France. On Sunday, he won the final time trial and clinched the overall at the Tour de Romandie. The Brit is now the favourite to win the Tour de France in July.

“I think in terms of pressure I’ve got to grips with that now,” he said in a press release. “But I had a super-strong team this week and they’ve put me in this position going into this final time trial just nine seconds down.”

Bradley Wiggins during the time trial stage of the 2012 Tour de Romandie. copyright - Kei Tsuji

He held the overall lead after sprinting to win stage one. Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank), though, won stages three and four, which helped him take the overall lead on the eve of the final TT leg.

As with Paris-Nice over a month ago, Wiggins managed himself to perfection in the final TT stage and won the overall. On Sunday, he placed ahead of Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Barracuda) and team-mate Richie Porte. Talansky also finished second overall ahead of Rui Costa (Movistar). Porte placed fourth overall and Mick Rogers (also Sky) fifth.

Critics doubt the team’s ability to gel in the Tour, to support Wiggins in the GC and Mark Cavendish in the sprints.

“There was a lot of discussion pre-race about Bradley and Mark riding together,” team manager, David Brailsford said. “When you see Mark riding on the front up a second category climb it tells you more than any words can.”

Have a laugh with Wiggo

Evans off target ?

Similar to Wiggins, Evans won Tirreno-Adriatico and Romandie last year ahead of the Tour de France. This year, though, he’s been struggling to find top form. He won the Critérium International stage race, but pulled out of the Ardennes Classics and only managed 29th overall in Romandie (1’45” back in the final time trial).

“Things haven’t gone well for reasons, but its coming together now,” he said after the race. “It’s [looking] good for July and August.”

Evans suffered from cold after his win in the Critérium International. His targets remain the Tour, the Olympics and the Worlds.

He wrote on Twitter, “Wiggins obviously the man of the week. No results for us, but a good week of work. #stillabittodo”

Talansky’s bright future

Andrew Talansky second overall in Romandie provides fans continued reason to believe he is USA’s next Grand Tour winner.

“This kid Talansky is the coming man,” explained team DS, Allan Peiper in a press release. “We have the depth behind him to support that in the future!”

Andrew Talansky during stage 6 of Amgen Tour of Calfornia 2011

As a neo-pro last year, he placed top 10 in three WorldTour time trials stages: Paris-Nice, Basque Country and Romandie. On Sunday, he won the young riders’ classification for a second year running.

Peiper said earlier in the year, “He can climb and he can time trial, but how far he can go in those disciplines remains to be seen. We want to take his development further, help him be a GC leader.”

Viva Il Giro!

After a month slogging it out in the north, the Giro d’Italia, Saturday through May 27, is a welcomed relief. Stews, soups and beer are replaced with ravioli, pizza and wine; bergs with passi; and cobbles with colle. First, though, we need to travel to Denmark!

Herning hosts the northern most start in Grand Tour history and perhaps one of the last big forays outside the organisers’ country. News rules now prohibit rest days in the first five days of a Grand Tour. The Giro received special permission this year to go ahead with its plans to travel/rest on day four.

The Verona team time trial kicks off the Italian tour. The race dips as far south as Abruzzo and Campania in the first weekend, where the riders face the first colle. In the second week, it travels up the west coast to the mountains. The typical mountainous third week is watered down compared to recent years, but will be thrilling nonetheless with the Pampeago and Stelvio stages.

Milan hosts the final TT stage, where Alberto Contador won the overall last year ahead of Michele Scarponi. Scarponi, though, starts as defending champion due to Contador’s doping ban.

Goss leads GreenEDGE

Matt Goss will lead GreenEDGE in the Giro and aim for the leader’s pink jersey.

“He’s not only a sprinter, but a pink jersey candidate in the first week,” sports director, Matt White told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. “It’s true we don’t have a classification rider, but Goss can win the jersey.”

Matt Goss pictured during 2012 Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey - Stage 6

The goal is the same as it has been all season: take a piece of the pie. “Win stages. Above all, in the first two weeks,” added White. “The ones in the north suit us, sprint and escape stages.”

Goss placed second in four stages of the Tour of Turkey last week and led the race for one day.

Schleck called in for RadioShack

Fränk Schleck added his name to the list of Giro favourites at the last minute on Friday. RadioShack-Nissan team manager, Johan Bruyneel called him up after Jakob Fuglsang abandoned Romandie and his Giro ambitions.

Flavio Becca, the team owner said, “We want to win the race with him.”

Frank Schleck pictured during Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2012

In 2008, Bruyneel made a last minute call to Alberto Contador when their Astana team received an invitation. “In the end we won the Overall,” said Bruyneel in a press release. “I am confident he can surprise us in the coming weeks.”

Schleck last raced the Giro d’Italia in 2005 to support Ivan Basso in team CSC. At the Tour, he placed third last year and fifth twice.

Basso wipes away doubts

Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) says he’s ready to win the Giro d’Italia for a third time despite a difficult lead-up. He crashed twice this spring, but remains confident based on Romandie.

“I wanted to wipe away any doubt,” Basso said in a press statement. “I know that I can fight to win the pink jersey.”

Basso trained like mad in Tenerife ahead of Romandie. In 17 days, he climbed 66,000 metres.

Sprinters’ seven stages

World Champion Mark Cavendish will lead a group of sprinters who are hoping for stage wins at the Giro d’Italia. There are seven on offer, the first two road stages in Denmark and in Italy, Fano (stage 5), Frosinone (9), Montecatini Terme (11), Cervere (13) and Vedelago (18).

“There are more sprint stages than last year,” explained Giro director, Michele Acquarone. “It’s perfect for sprinters like Mark, [Matt] Goss and [Mark] Renshaw.”

“We’ve got a good squad to go and win stages,” said Cavendish in a press release. “We want to win the team time trial as well and hopefully that will get us the pink jersey.”

Pellizotti signs with Androni

Franco Pellizotti in the poker dot jersey on stage 19 of the 2009 Tour de France.

Pellizotti announced yesterday that he will return to race with team Androni. The Italian’s two-year doping ban due to blood irregularities ends on Friday, but he will skip the Giro.

Gianni Savio’s team also helped re-launch Scarponi’s career after a doping ban. Savio told Italian website Tutto Bici, “We are convinced we can do the same with Franco Pellizotti.”

With Liquigas in 2009, he placed second overall in the Giro and won of the mountains competition in the Tour de France – those results were annulled due to his ban.

Martin returns to racing

Team OmegaPharma-Quick Step’s Tony Martin returns to racing today in Germany’s Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt. The German time trial world champion collided with a car in training last month. He suffered several facial fractures, but started riding again one week later.

“The pain went away slowly and I was able to increase my training,” he wrote on his website. “I’m ready to get back into competition.”

Team-mate Leipheimer fractured his left leg’s fibula on April 1 in a separate training crash with a car. He has yet to plan a comeback.

Italians Ballan and Pozzato win

Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing) and Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini) narrowly lost out in the big classics, but pulled off wins over the weekend in Italy. Ballan won the Giro di Toscana and Pozzato the GP Larciano.

Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia) pictured during GP Industria & Artigianato - Larciano 2012

Ballan said, “The win adds extra meaning to my two podium places.”

He placed third in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix behind winner Tom Boonen (OmegaPharma-Quick Step). Pozzato formed the winning trio with Ballan and Boonen in Flanders and placed second.