Gerrans, Clarke and Matthews to chase success for Orica GreenEdge in Vuelta a España
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gerrans, Clarke and Matthews to chase success for Orica GreenEdge in Vuelta a España

by VeloNation Press at 5:03 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Strong lineup for Australian squad

Simon GerransTour de France stage winner and Maillot Jaune Simon Gerrans plus last year’s Vuelta a España King of the Mountains and stage victor Simon Clarke are two of a strong Orica GreenEdge lineup confirmed today for the upcoming Grand Tour.

The duo will spearhead the Australian team’s charge, and will also be joined by double Tour of Utah stage winner Michael Matthews, who is in strong form and is set to make his Grand Tour debut later this month.

Also in the lineup is the sprinter Leigh Howard, former Tour de France Maillot Vert Baden Cooke, Mitch Docker, Christian Meier and Sam Bewley.

Directeur sportif Neil Stephens is convinced that the lineup has the makings of a very successful squad. “We’ve put together a dynamic team that will target stage wins in Spain,” he said. “Our objectives are very much like last year. Many of the stages suit our style of racing, and we’re capable of doing very well here.

“This is a group that is capable of pulling off a stage win on a number of different days. We have guys for the sprints, guys for the punchy little uphill finishes, guys that can win from a break and guys eager to help out all three groups. We won one stage and the mountain classification jersey last year with Simon Clarke. We hope to leave our mark on the race again this year.”

The race is not just about landing success there, however. Stephens said that he also has a longer view, and that guys like Gerrans and Clarke can use the race as a platform for a push for the rainbow jersey.

“In addition to our stage win goals, we have a couple of Australia’s strongest riders racing with us in preparation for the World Championships in Florence,” he explained. “The World Championships circuit is a very difficult one, and we tend to think the preparation for Worlds will come out of the Vuelta.

“The riders have spoken to the national team selectors, and they’ve put their hand up to race with us in Spain to help them get ready for Worlds.”

Gerrans has previously won a stage in the Vuelta, being just the second Australian to have clocked up stages in each of the Grand Tours. Stephens describes him as a stand-out rider and believes he will be a big factor.

“He finished off the Tour in great shape and is now doing a block of training at altitude in preparation for his final goals of the season, which include the Vuelta and the World Championships,” he stated. “I see several stages that suit Simon, and he will certainly look to win one of them.”

He’s also upbeat about Clarke’s chances. “Simon came a long way in terms of development last year,” he stated. “He furthered his progression at the Tour in July. Having won a stage and the mountain classification here last year, Simon obviously has some really good memories from his first Vuelta. Like Gerro, Clarkey is going for stage wins as he continues to mature into a leadership role within the team.”

As for Matthews, the former world under 23 champion is clearly in fine shape, as his two stage wins plus the points jersey in the Tour of Utah show. He took five runner-up slots earlier this year but in emerging best in Utah, he gave himself a significant morale boost.

He’ll now use that motivation in his first Grand Tour.

“Michael has been a very exciting young rider to work with this year,” Stephens explained. “He’s shone throughout this season, and the wins in Utah should give him a big confidence boost. The way he was able to handle some of the hillier terrain opens up additional possibilities for him at the Vuelta.”

Trio backed by strong lineup:


Stephens is clear that others could also ride very strongly in the WorldTour event. Leigh Howard will join with Matthews in being the team’s best chances of sprint success, and showed his ability earlier this year when he won two races in the Challenge Mallorca.

He was forced to pull out of the Giro d’Italia after a crash but has been working hard to get ready for the Vuelta. There are signs that his form is on the up.

“Leigh was a major part of both of Jens Keukeleire’s wins at Burgos last week,” said Stephens. “He’s used both Poland and Burgos as a bit of a strength block and an opportunity to fine-tune his sprint. With Matthews, Leigh is part of our two-pronged approach to the sprints.”

“Michael and Leigh approach the sprints differently, so it’s great that we’re bringing riders that can cover all sorts of sprint scenarios,” added Stephens. “We have a team to support them both.”

Stephens added that Cooke and Docker will have important leadout roles in the race, while he believes that Bewley, Meier and Sulzberger are also riding very well and will give significant assistance to the other riders.

In addition to that, he believes Sulzberger could do something big himself.

“Wes is in fantastic shape,” he stated. “It’s clear he really trained well throughout July. He’s a great helper in nearly every race situation, and I expect he’ll be especially important in the harder stages that suit Gerro and Clarkey. Wes also has the ability to finish off a stage from a breakaway, and we’d love to see him get the result he’s gone after all season.”


Orica-GreenEdge for Vuelta a España (August 24th – September 15th):

Baden Cooke
Christian Meier
Leigh Howard
Michael Matthews
Mitch Docker
Sam Bewley
Simon Clarke
Simon Gerrans
Wesley Sulzberger

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