ORICA-GreenEDGE has named its nine man Tour de France squad. The line-up includes six riders who raced the Australian outfit’s inaugural Grand Boucle alongside three riders making their Tour de France debut.
“The team objective this year is to win a stage at the Tour de France,” said sport director Matt White. “That’s our main goal. We’re bringing a more diverse team this year to give us a few more options for intermediate stages and days in the medium mountains. The sprint stages remain a big focus, and we bring a dedicated sprint train to support Matt Goss on the flatter days.”
The nine riders who will head to Corsica for the 100th Grand Départ are: Stuart O’Grady, Matt Goss, Daryl Impey, Brett Lancaster, Svein Tuft, Simon Gerrans, Michael Albasini, Simon Clarke and Cameron Meyer
“Last year, we brought together a group of riders who hadn’t raced together much before the Tour de France,” noted White. “This year, we have six who raced the Tour together last year and five who recently worked together at the Tour de Suisse. This is a group of riders that have learned to work together seamlessly.”
The team will be captained by Stuart O’Grady, who has appeared in every Tour de France since he made his debut in 1997. O’Grady has supported three riders, Andy Schleck, Fränk Schleck and Carlos Sastre, to a total of six Tour de France overall podium finishes, including Sastre’s victory in 2008. With 16 Tour de France starts, 14 finishes, two stage wins and nine days in yellow to his name, O’Grady is the most experienced Grand Tour rider in the professional peloton. The South Australian equals the record set by George Hincapie for most Tour de France starts when he lines up for his 17th Tour de France this year.
“Stuey knows his way around the bunch, and he knows his way around the Tour,” said White. “He’s experienced the yellow jersey, the green jersey, stage wins and everything in between. Having the sort of leadership that comes from his knowledge is invaluable.”
Matt Goss is the team’s designated leader for the sprint stages. The Tasmanian gave ORICA-GreenEDGE its first Grand Tour win last year at the Giro d’Italia. He came close to repeating the feat at the Tour, where he sprinted to five stage podiums. Lining up for his fourth Tour de France start, Goss is firmly focused on pulling off a stage win in the sprints.
“Gossy will be our man on all the sprint stages,” said White. “He had some devastatingly close calls last year. We saw him win a tough stage at Tirreno-Adriatico in March, finish third in the first week of the Giro d’Italia last month and race a quite consistent Tour de Suisse as part of his build-up to the Tour. The boys will look to deliver Gossy to the top step on one of the many stages that are available to the sprinters.”
Daryl Impey made his Tour de France debut with ORICA-GreenEDGE last year. Equally comfortable in the sprint train as he is seizing personal opportunities, the South African will play a pivotal role in supporting the team’s objectives.
“Impey is the last guy in front of Gossy in the sprints,” noted White. “He’s also quite handy in the medium mountains. We brought him to his first Tour de France last year and have seen him develop into one of the best lead out guys in the world over the last 12 months. He’s an important asset for us at any race.”
Brett Lancaster, who recently sprinted to victory on the fourth stage of Tour de Slovénie, has shown repeated dedication to the sprint train during his career. Lining up for his sixth Tour de France, Lancaster will work with Impey and Goss in the fast finishes.
“Brett is coming off a very solid Giro d’Italia backed up by a win in Slovenia,” said White. “He’s another crucial member of our sprint train, and he’s the most experienced guy we have in that role. He handles pressure well and provides a sense of calm to the train in what can be a very hectic final.”
Svein Tuft will ride his first Tour de France with ORICA-GreenEDGE. No stranger to Grand Tours, Tuft has twice raced the Giro d’Italia and once raced the Vuelta a España. The eight time Canadian National Time Trial Champion earned his spot on the team’s Tour squad in large part due to his versatility.
“Svein is a world class time trialer,” said White. “He’ll be crucial for our team time trial ambitions. He’s a strong guy with a huge amount of power to chase breakaways or look after the sprint train. We can use him in a lot of ways. I’m really looking forward to taking him to his first Tour de France.”
Beyond the sprint train, the team will look to a group of opportunists who will target key stages that suit their various strengths.
Simon Gerrans snagged four wins last year, including the Tour Down Under overall and Milan-Sanremo. He has backed up last season’s success with three stage victories in the first six months of the 2013 season. Gerrans is the first Australian to win a stage at all three Grand Tours. He hopes to add a second Tour de France victory is his ever-growing palmarès in his eighth start.
“Gerro has been one of our most successful athletes since the team’s inception,” said White. “He has a knack for winning from a breakaway or a reduced bunch. I expect to see Simon pick and choose stages throughout the Tour where he sees an opportunity for himself to get into a break or make an elite selection.”
Michael Albasini is a solid all-rounder with a gritty style of racing that has netted him six wins in the last 18 months. Most recently, Albasini took a hometown win from a small group sprint at GP Gippingen. A Tour de France win has eluded Albasini, who lines up for his fifth start eager to change that.
“Albasini shares similar qualities to Gerrans,” noted White. “Two years ago, he won a stage at the Vuelta, but he’s yet to win a stage at the Tour. He’s an opportunist with a good chance of winning out of a breakaway. He’s experienced, versatile and capable in a lot of different scenarios.”
Simon Clarke raced his first Grand Tour with ORICA-GreenEDGE at the Vuelta a España last year. Most riders hope to survive their first Grand Tour. Clarke thrived. He won the mountains classification and one stage, giving ORICA-GreenEDGE its second Grand Tour stage victory.
“Clarkey had a breakthrough year last year culminating in a wildly successful Vuelta,” explained White. “He deserves a ride at the Tour de France after what he accomplished in Spain. In addition to capitalizing on personal opportunities in the medium mountain stages, Simon is a fantastic teammate who can do whatever sort of work we might need on days that are better suited to another rider on the team.”
Cameron Meyer rounds out the nine man squad. The Western Australian recently finished tenth in the Tour de Suisse overall after winning the stage one time trial and spending two days in yellow. Meyer has four Grand Tour starts and two finishes to his name. This will be his first Tour de France.
“Cam comes to the Tour off the back of a consistent last couple off months where he finished in the top ten overall at Turkey, California and Switzerland,” said White. “He’s been building steadily since his setback after an operation to treat a saddle sore early in the season.”
“We haven’t previously had anyone for the high mountain stages,” White continued. “With the form he showed us last week in Switzerland, we realise that Cam gives us an option. He can climb with a very select group of riders, and that opens us up to opportunities on stages that we’ve been forced to overlook in the past.”
White believes the team’s nine riders provide the best possible opportunity to secure a stage victory during their three weeks in France.
“This sport is very result focused,” acknowledged White. “We’re judged on wins, and we have yet to tick the box of our first stage win at the Tour de France.”
“Wins can come in different ways,” he continued. “We’ll be happy with any win we can grab. Each day, we focus on our goals and the process we need to follow to achieve the goals. If we do our best to hit those goals, it’s our best chance to get that win. When we tick off small boxes every day, we become confident that we’ll get to tick off the big box eventually.”
ORICA-GreenEDGE for the Tour de France: