The Orica-GreenEdge team has won 50 percent of the Vuelta stages thus far and led GC for five of six days in the opening week. We catch up with the team’s owner, Gerry Ryan, to get his thoughts on the Spanish race and what we can expect from the future of his investment in cycling…
The owner of Orica-GreenEdge, Gerry Ryan, has a long history in the sporting world. He is a co-owner of Americain, the horse that won the 2010 Melbourne Cup and he has a stake in the NRL team Melbourne Storm, but Ryan admits that cycling takes up most of his time… and money. He’s committed to the sponsorship of the only Australian WorldTour team and believes there may come a bike when OGE is leading a Grand Tour in the final week, rather than the first.
“In a couple of years from now, if these young guys continue with their progression,” Ryan told RIDE during the first week of the Vuelta, “then they can step up then they can take on the leadership role for the final week.”
Of the 12 Grand Tours OGE has started, the team has led GC in the first week in five – 2013 Tour with Simon Gerrans; 2014 Giro with Michael Matthews; 2014 Vuelta with Matthews; 2015 Giro with Gerrans, Matthews and Simon Clarke; and 2015 Vuelta with Estaban Chaves.
Ryan has watched the success of his team from afar in the opening week of the Vuelta, tuning in from Australia but he is flying to Europe over the weekend and expects to be at the race on Monday. On the first rest day, he says, the final recruitment for the 2016 roster will be revealed. “We’ve got someone to support the young guys we’ve got, so we’ll have some experienced climbers to assist the likes of Chaves, and the Yates brothers.”
Orica has signed on for another couple of years as title sponsor but the team owner explained that there’s hope for another name to be added beyond the holding company GreenEdge or, as it could be known, The Gerry Ryan Benevolent Fund. “We’re talking to a few people and, in fact, during the Vuelta we have a couple of presentations so I’m sure that we’re going to have some announcements by the end of the year or early next year.”
It’s not been the best of seasons for OGE and Ryan was one of many who questioned the logical from Vuelta organisers and the course selected for the opening TTT last Saturday. “It was dangerous,” he said. “It should never have happened.” Still, the winners of the opening TT at the Giro in 2014 and 2015 were just shy of the win on day one of the 2015 Vuelta, finishing third behind BMC and Tinkoff-Saxo. “We were seven seconds down at the intermediate check and to lose to by one second just shows me that everybody is up.
“The boys said they were a bit cautious but with our track record over this year, I think there’s good reason to be a bit cautious.”
Since then it’s been one success after another with Estaban Chaves leading the way, both with stage wins and GC duties. The Colombian was first in the uphill finish of stage two and again in stage six. Each time he took the red jersey as overall leader. In between the climber’s successes, OGE’s dynamic young sprinter Caleb Ewan picked up a stage victory on day five.
“Estaban has been very patient,” said Ryan about the rider his team recruited two years ago. We’ve been patient with him and invested in his comeback when others doubted that he would come back. He deserves that jersey.
“He looks about 16 but he’s 24 and he’s always got a permanent smile on his face. He never complains – and that was part of his problem, if he had an issue he wouldn’t say anything. So, over the last six months, he’s really matured as a rider, he’s learnt more and he is using his head and being a lot smarter when it comes to racing.”
Ryan is an optimist and he is thinking ahead all the time. There’s hope, he says, of having another runner in the Melbourne Cup this November although, he warns “it’s like aiming for a team to win the Tour de France in the years ahead; a lot of things go wrong”.
But he is committed to cycling and not put off by the recent money market woes that have been prominent in the news this week. “Companies are still reporting the same profits and generating the same dividends for shareholders and distributing cash.”
Team sponsorship allows the likes of Ryan, Oleg Tinkoff, Andy Rihs and other benefactors of cycling an opportunity to be part of the sport they enjoy so much and the economic downturn isn’t putting the GreenEdge owner off his commitment. “Fundamentally,” Ryan concludes, “I still am investing and sponsoring a cycling team and I’m enjoying the ride.”
– By Rob Arnold