Monday, 23 July 2012
Only a decade ago, if an Australian finished seventh in the Tour de France, it would have been cause for great celebration.
An Australian team in the race was little more than a fanciful dream.
It shows the extent of the Australian cycling boom that this Tour will feel slightly disappointing.
Defending champion Cadel Evans finished seventh and remains only the third Australian to make the top 10.
New team Orica-GreenEDGE managed every stage placing from second to seventh on debut and continually tried to animate the flatter stages.
Mick Rogers and Richie Porte played crucial roles as mountain domestiques on the Sky team for Tour winner Brad Wiggins.
There were a record 12 Australian starters and nine of them finished.
But there were no stage wins and no repeat title.
Orica-GreenEDGE sprinter Matt Goss finished third in Sunday's final stage as British ace Mark Cavendish won in Paris for the fourth-straight year.
Despite not cracking the win, Orica-GreenEDGE director Matt White was pleased.
"We're just missing a little bit of luck or a little bit of positioning to beat the fastest guy in the world, Cav, or ... (Andre) Greipel or (Peter) Sagan," White said.
"It's been a great success for our first year ... we've had a great year so far, not just to be consistent but we've really animated the race at times.
"From day one to today, we've certainly been a big factor in the Tour."
Team captain Stuart O'Grady said they had gained vital experience.
"It's the first time the nine of us have ridden together, I think we have to be really proud," O'Grady said.
"We've learnt a hell of a lot and experience is a major key to Tour de France success.
"You can plan and talk and have the will, but you need a bit of luck and it's what makes the Tour so special."
Orica-GreenEDGE have had a similar Tour debut to what Sky achieved two years ago - and that was rated a failure at the time.
Sky have quickly developed into professional cycling's most powerful lineup.
Wiggins became the first British Tour winner, teammate Chris Froome was second overall and the team scored six stage wins.
"This has been, as everyone's seen, such a team effort," Wiggins said.
"Even today, it was an incredible group of guys.
"I've had the privilege to ride with them for the past three weeks; it's been an absolute honour."
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