Four days out from the start of the Giro d’Italia, ORICA-GreenEDGE has announced its nine man roster for the first of the three Grand Tours. The Australian outfit will attack the three week tour with several objectives in mind: winning the opening stage team time trial, chasing stage wins and continuing its development of the team’s young riders. The nine riders to take to the race start in Belfast are: Brett Lancaster, Cameron Meyer, Ivan Santaromita, Luke Durbridge, Michael Hepburn, Michael Matthews, Mitch Docker, Pieter Weening and Svein Tuft.
“Our first objective in Italy is to win the team time trial,” said Sport Director Matt White. “It will be all hands on deck for the TTT in Ireland. We want to take the maglia rosa and of course hold onto it for as long as possible.”
Svein Tuft is an unassuming rider who commands respect as the ultimate team player and steadfast workhorse. Eight times Canadian National Time Trial Champion, Tuft will be a crucial link in the team’s quest for victory on day one.
“In addition to playing a key role in the TTT, I also consider Svein one of our road captains,” said White. “He’s experienced, even-keeled and devoted to his teammates. He will be a huge asset to this group throughout the race.”
Brett Lancaster has ridden 13 Grand Tours, including seven Giro d’Italia starts. Nine years ago, he won the prologue at the Giro to pull on the coveted pink race leader’s jersey. Co-captain of the Giro team this year, Lancaster is at the forefront of the team’s quest for victory and the maglia rosa in Ireland.
“Aside from his important role in the TTT, Brett will guide the lead-out train in the final kilometres of the sprint stages,” noted White. “Brett is very familiar with this role and knows exactly how to get the other guys in the right place as the bunch winds up for the sprint.
Luke Durbridge is a time trial specialist who has proven he is more than capable of winning on the road as well. Twice Australian National Time Trial Champion and once U23 World Time Trial Champion, Durbridge is the first Australian in the modern era to do the double at the Australian National Road Championships, winning both the individual time trial and the road race in the same year. Durbridge made his Grand Tour debut at the Giro last year where he rode a very respectable sixth in the stage eight individual time trial.
“Like Brett and Svein, Luke will be a key member of our squad for the TTT,” said White. “Luke produced a fantastic result in the ITT last year, and I really expect that the time trial on stage 12 will suit his characteristics.
Michael Hepburn takes on his first Grand Tour as the youngest amongst the ORICA-GreenEDGE Giro d’Italia squad. The 22 year old is another integral part of the Australian outfit’s team time trial machine. Hepburn clocked his first major win in ORICA-GreenEDGE colours when he became the Australian National Time Trial Champion in January of this year. A month later, Hepburn backed up his crowning achievement with a win in the individual time trial at Tour of Qatar.
“This will be Heppy’s first Grand Tour,” White stated. “It will be a real learning experience for him to get through one of the most beautiful and most challenging races on the calendar. He has had a really solid racing block under his belt this season so far and with that has developed into a more complete road rider.”
Cameron Meyer’s strength against the clock has been repeatedly demonstrated in his palmares. His first aim at his fourth Giro d’Italia start is the team time trial. Following the opening stage, he will focus on chasing stage wins
“Cam can win a stage,” said White. “He is a very versatile rider who we are happy to see in the break on any given day. We have seen this aggressive style in the past with him and I expect to see the same rider that we saw at the Vuelta two years ago.
Michael Matthews made his mark in his Grand Tour debut, winning two stages at the Vuelta a España last year. Prior to his big wins in Spain, he won twice at the Tour of Utah en route to claiming the points jersey. Matthews has backed up last season’s results with key victories in Basque Country and Rioja. Eager to increase his winning tally at the Giro, Matthews will be the team’s designated sprinter on the flat and medium mountain stages.
“Michael will be targeting a lot of the stages in the first two weeks of the race” said White. “He’s going to face some stiff competition, but we’re confident that he will really benefit from this experience. With the teams support, he’s up for the challenge.”
Mitch Docker was a crucial member of the sprint train that delivered Matthews to Vuelta victories last year. The consummate teammate, Docker will revive his role as lead-out specialist for the ORICA-GreenEDGE sprint train at the Giro, assuming responsibility for delivery Matthews into prime position for the final gallop to the finish.
“Mitch has turned into a very consistent member of the team’s lead out train” said White. “And with the parcours the way it is, we’ll certainly be relying on him to showcase his talents throughout the Giro.”
A key player in the Ardennes Classics group that delivered Simon Gerrans to the win at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Pieter Weening heads to Northern Ireland with the spectacular form he cultivated during the spring. Weening made his first Grand Tour appearance in 2004 and has since raced all three, three-week long races, winning a stage at the Tour de France in 2005 and a stage at the Giro d’Italia in 2011. His win in Italy earned him four days in the maglia rosa
“Weening loves the Giro,” commented White. “The style of racing in Italy makes it a perfect race for him. He is going really strong right now and will be going full gas from the start. Later in the tour he’ll pick and choose stages that suit him. He will definitely be on the hunt for stage wins.”
For Ivan Santaromita, wearing the highly esteemed tri-colour jersey in his national tour will be a proud moment. The Italian National Road Champion is highly motivated and has meticulously prepared for his third Giro d’Italia. Whilst his teammates are focused on stages, Santaromita has his eye on the overall.
“Santa is aiming for the best possible general classification result he can produce,” said White. “The team has goals beyond the overall, but we will support him as much as we possibly can. We don’t expect him to contend for a podium but we are starting out with a top 10 as our goal.”
White is excited to be directing this talented team at the Giro d’Italia, which he believes is a good training ground for young riders. Of the three Grand Tours, White ranks the Giro as the most physically taxing.
“For me the Giro is a litmus test of a rider’s ability to get through a Grand Tour,” said White. “If a rider can get through the Giro physically, then he is ready for the more mentally challenging Tour de France.”
ORICA-GreenEDGE for the Giro d’Italia: