Australia has pined for a "national" team in the Grande Boucle ever since Phil Anderson's ephemeral spell in yellow in the Tour de France three decades ago (30 June 1981 in Saint-Lary-Soulan), at a time when Bernard Hinault reigned supreme. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, riders from Down Under earned a reputation as trailblazers, but also as mercenaries, as they had no choice but to knock on the doors of European and American teams if they wanted to take part in the Tour de France.
Between Phil Anderson and Cadel Evans, the first Tour champion from the Southern Hemisphere (2011), Stuart O'Grady, Bradley McGee and Robbie McEwen also wore the yellow jersey and Tour de France fever took Australia by storm, leading to the creation of the first world-class Australian team in 2012. The squad was named GreenEDGE (for its environmental message and one of the two Australian national colours, the other being gold) and has the financial backing of businessman Gerry Ryan, a caravan maker and entertainment promoter (among other things) who had been sponsoring Australian races and riders for two decades. A sponsor popped up straight away in the shape of Orica, a mining company.
After a lacklustre maiden Tour de France in which sprinter Matt Goss finished five times in the top 3 (second in Saint-Quentin and Brive-la-Gaillarde and third in Tournai, Metz and Paris) without managing to clinch a single win, Shayne Bannan's squad stole the show in 2013, not just because of the infamous incident in which the team bus got stuck under the gantry at the end of stage 1, but especially thanks to its victory in the Nice team time trial and the yellow jersey switching from Phil Anderson's former disciple, Simon Gerrans, to the first African rider to lead the Tour de France, Daryl Impey! Its next two participations, however, were marred by bad luck. In 2014, decimated by Michael Matthews' fall before the Grand Départ in Leeds then that of Simon Gerrans, who was knocked over by Mark Cavendish on the very first stage, the best place it achieved was fourth by Michael Albasini in Saint-Étienne. In 2015, Matthews and Gerrans hit the deck hard again, going down in stage 3 together with Daryl Impey and Albasini.
The pendulum swung back in the team's favour in 2016, when Matthews broke the curse with his maiden stage win in Revel. After narrowly missing out on the yellow jersey on Mont Ventoux, Adam Yates netted Orica its first distinctive jersey on the Champs-Élysées, finishing as the best young rider and fourth overall. In 2017, Simon Yates became the first rider in the history of the race to succeed his brother as the winner of the white jersey. The British twins have shifted the focus of the team —now sponsored by Mitchelton, another of Gerry Ryan's ventures— away from sprints and onto the general classification. However, expectations are also high for pocket rocket and Aussie fan favourite Caleb Ewan ahead of his Tour debut.
Stage wins: 3
Secondary classification wins: 2
Yellow jerseys: 4
7: The number of Aussies who have worn the yellow jersey in the Tour de France (Phil Anderson, Stuart O'Grady, Bradley McGee, Robbie McEwen, Cadel Evans, Simon Gerrans and Rohan Dennis).
30 June 2012: 2004 Olympic champion Brett Lancaster inaugurates the presence of the first Australian team on the Tour de France with a 6th-place finish in the prologue in Liège, raising hopes among his countrymen and women.
2 July 2013: Orica-GreenEDGE dominates the team time trial in Nice, propelling Simon Gerrans into the yellow jersey after his win in the previous stage to Calvi.
23 July 2017: Simon takes the number of days spent in the white jersey by the Yates brothers to 32, adding 17 to Adam's tally of 15 in the previous edition.
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