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Unveiling a far rounded Tour de France team than in its previous participations in the race, the Orica GreenEdge squad named an impressive line-up for the event on Tuesday.
The Australian squad will include former stage winner and past yellow jersey Simon Gerrans plus previous Maillot Jaune Daryl Impey, as well as two-time Giro d’Italia stage winner Michael Matthews. Joining them will be two-time 2015 Tour de Romandie stage winner Michael Albasini, former Tour de France stage winner Pieter Weening, plus the time trial specialists Svein Tuft and Australian Luke Durbridge.
As indicated by general manager Shayne Bannan in a recent CyclingTips interview, the squad will for the first time be able to aim for success on the mountain stages. This is down to two of the most exciting young talents in pro cycling, the Yates twins Adam and Simon.
The duo are still just 22 years of age but have already racked up some impressive results. Adam took the 2014 Presidential Tour of Turkey while Simon was recently the winner of the best young rider’s award in the Critérium du Dauphiné.
They are just second year professionals but have made impressive progress thus far and give the team an additional element in its Tour campaign.
“This is the most well rounded and balanced team we have ever sent to a Grand Tour,” stated the team’s sports director Matt White. “We have a lot of opportunities right throughout the three weeks, where as at Tour’s in the past we haven’t had guys who can win high mountain stages.
“The goal for us is stage victories and because of the quality of this team, everyone will be given a chance to win a stage. With so many options right across the board, the month ahead is a pretty exciting prospect.”
Gerrans has had a frustrating season thus far due to crashes but is highly motivated to turn things around with a successful Tour campaign. White feels optimistic as to his chances.
“Even though it has been an unfortunate year injury wise for Simon, the build up he has had over these last two months has been pretty ideal,” he explained. “He is ready to roll and since this teams inception has been one of our most reliable athletes, we have our eyes on some suitable targets for him.”
Matthews will make his debut in the race, having been forced to miss it twelve months ago due to a crash just before it got underway.
“Michael is certainly ready for the Tour de France after last year’s false start,” said White. “The goal for him is to win a stage and there are good opportunities right throughout the Tour for him. The green jersey, despite much hype, is not on our agenda this year.”
Having made clear the points classification is not a priority, he did the same in relation to the Maillot Jaune and the Yates brothers.
“I think it would be pretty irresponsible for us to put pressure on 22-year-olds, as second year pros, to ride general classification at the Tour de France,” he said. “For both of them, it’s the first Tour de France they are aiming on finishing and so the plan is to gain more experience at the highest level in our sport.”
“What they have proven this year is that they have the ability to be very competitive on a lot of varied terrains and against the best riders in the world. We are aiming to win a stage with them. If they can hunt out the right move, then on any given day they certainly have the ability to win.”
As for Albasini and Impey, he sees both of them as potential stage winners but also said that they provide vital support to the likes of Matthews and Gerrans. Weening is another who could shine if he gets his own opportunity along the way, but his main role will likely be to play support for the Yates duo.
As for Tuft and Durbridge, their big engines will be useful across a wide variety of situations. They too may also get their own chances in what is set to be an extremely interesting campaign for the Australian WorldTour squad.
Orica GreenEdge for Tour de France:
Michael Albasini (SWI, 34), 7th TDF appearance
Luke Durbridge (AUS, 24), 2nd TDF appearance
Simon Gerrans (AUS, 35), 10th TDF appearance
Daryl Impey (RSA, 30), 3rd TDF appearance
Michael Matthews (AUS, 24), 1st TDF appearance
Svein Tuft (CAN, 38), 3rd TDF appearance
Pieter Weening (NED, 34), 6th TDF appearance
Adam Yates (GBR, 22), 1st TDF appearance
Simon Yates (GBR, 22), 2nd TDF appearance