Which of the Armed Forces has the best legs?
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When It Rains It Pours

Such an adage can be used to describe the string of successes that flooded into the Orica GreenEDGE camp during the first week of this year’s Tour De France.  It was a monumental first week and not only for Australian cycling, but for Australian sport in its entirety.  As good as the debut season for Orica GreenEDGE was, there were still a lot of questions about what 2013 would hold and the real question, although not many were bold enough to admit it, was, “Were we going to see a victory during this year’s Tour de France?” 

Its was probably fair to assume that the team would unlikely ever have a broader public reach as an Australian team until it started to show elements of success at the Tour De France, the world’s biggest race and the only platform that reaches the non-cycling audiences, particularly in cultures such as Australia’s, and when it comes to measuring success in the Tour de France, it can only be made by attaining a stage victory, a day in the jersey or winning one of the overall classifications.  Well success came with a capital S followed by a swathe of exclamation marks for Orica GreenEDGE during the first week of this year’s Tour de France; the sort of success that most other teams only dream of in a decade, let alone in a week.

The most impressive moment for me was the Team Time Trial (TTT) victory in Nice.  Not only because it secured the yellow jersey but also because it is such a highly coveted discipline by all teams.  TTT victories (and more at the Tour than anywhere else) are the stuff of dreams for everyone, from sponsors to Directors, physiologists, soignuers and mechanics.  There is not any other stage in a Tour de France that involves all of the members of the team in such a concentrated form and for it to work everyone has to get their end of the business just right.  From tweaking finicky time trial bikes to deciding the optimum order of the riders, from pre-TTT rider warm-ups and nutrition to the calls on the road, there is a significant role for everyone to play on the day.  And success does not come without complete trust and confidence resonating throughout the team; a shining example of the importance of team cohesion for any corporate involved or wanting to get involved in the sport. 

The complexity of getting things right and achieving a result is exactly why it is such a prestigious and highly sought after victory.  It reflects broadly on the team in terms of rider and staff quality, commitment and most importantly, trust.  And the Tour de France provides the biggest stage in the world to demonstrate this.  

Many would say the TTT win was the pivotal moment for Orica GreenEDGE at the Tour de France but I think there was another defining moment before that.  Our Tour De France began with a loud ‘thud!’ in stage 1 when the team bus became firmly wedged under the finish gantry.  It was a tense moment for all involved and until 6kms to go, the bus was still a very stuck ‘white elephant’ that occupied the entire finish line.  Thankfully, with a frantic combined effort, the gantry was successfully ‘detached’ from the roof of the bus and the race was able to finish in the orthodox manner.   After such a stressful first stage it would have been easy to slink back and spend the first week hiding under a rock.  However, quite to the contrary, everyone stood alongside Gari, the bus driver, to show solidarity and support from within the team.  From there, the already tight team unity tightened some more and the positive vibe became infectious.  The sense of camaraderie was palpable and quickly manifested itself in outstanding performances. 

The first Orica GreenEDGE victory by Simon Gerans, followed by the historical Team Time Trial win and then the passing of the yellow jersey to the shoulders of South African, Daryl Impey, for a further two days, unequivocally etched Orica GreenEDGE into the history books of the Tour de France. 

As a non-rider on the team, I felt very privileged to be a part of it all.  While it was the boys who really kicked the goal, I still felt immensely proud to be a team member and what had been achieved.  I have come to realize over the years that there are victories and then there are victories and the Team Time Trial in the 2013 Tour de France will be a special one for all those involved.  Victories like that and weeks like the first week of the Tour de France do not happen very often and for some teams, not once in their existence and for some riders never, ever even once in their careers.  

So as much as I have been missing racing, especially in pinnacle events like the Tour de France, for me I have been very fortunate to still be part of the team and although it is difficult to measure direct input, as it’s not quantifiable by watts or results, it still felt special to have contributed to the success on some level.  Certainly it has kept me inspired to keep involved. 

For the fans I’m sure it has also been an exceptional experience.  With the nature of social media being what it is and the boys being open to sharing their experiences through mediums such as the ‘Backstage Pass’, people have been given a very sincere and intimate insight into life within OGE.  More than any other World Tour team, and possibly any other high level sports team in the world of professional sport, OGE is approachable, personable and candidly open via all forms of media; a reflection on not only the riders and frontline staff but each and every team member who all value the importance of engaging the fans and giving them more than just performances to enjoy.  Success in Orica GreenEDGE transpires from trust, commitment and honesty deep within the team – all crucial elements for success on the road at races as intense as the Tour De France.

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Which of the Armed Forces has the best legs?

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