Tour Down Under: Saxo Bank fired up for strong performance
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Tour Down Under: Saxo Bank fired up for strong performance

by Conal Andrews at 5:23 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour Down Under

Saxo Bank directeur sportif Brad McGee has said that his team is motivated to perform well in the Tour Down Under, which begins next week.

Jens Voigt, Stuart O'Grady, Juan José Haedo, Kasper Klostergård, Baden Cooke, Frank Hoj and Anders Lund will represent the team in the ProTour race, which begins on Tuesday but which is preceded by a criterium in Adelaide on Sunday.

"We want results and we have guys that are ready and we will be racing hard," he said on the website. "You have a plan, you have to motivate the troops and put the plan into action. It is the first race of the year and it is about being in the position to win. Then we will see what the guys’ form is compared to the rest of the teams," said McGee.

"As long as we are in there with a good chance for the win then that is step one. The results will come from there."

Many eyes will be on Cooke, a former winner of the Tour de France’s green jersey. He has had a few quiet seasons due to injury and team problems, but now has a big chance to bounce back with Saxo Bank. McGee was instrumental in signing him and giving him a second chance at the ProTour level. He’s reportedly in great shape and many are expecting Cooke to figure next week.

McGee is looking forward to watching him race. "I have already seen the re-birth and I hope the rest of the world will [too], with some nice results," he said.

O’Grady won the first edition of the race back in 1999 and repeated in 2001, making him the only rider to take two victories in the event. He was third on two stages last year and finished second overall behind fellow Australian Allan Davis.

This time round, he comes into the race off the back of a bout of pneumonia, and so it’s unlikely he will be at top form. However he will nevertheless play an important role in the Saxo Bank squad, and will be a valuable source of experience.

"O'Grady had a nasty cold before Christmas and he is behind, so we are not asking too much from him,” explained McGee. “But he is an important part of the team because of his ability to organise the team on the road, a road captain extraordinaire."

Cooke and Haedo are likely to represent the team’s hopes as their sprinting ability will be crucial in landing important time bonuses. Their main rivals are likely to be former winners André Greipel (HTC-Columbia) and Allan Davis (Astana), with others such as Robbie McEwen (Katusha), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) and Gert Steegmans (RadioShack) also expected to be up there.

The Saxo Bank team trained for three hours today, and will follow that up with a longer spin tomorrow plus a short morning warm-up on Sunday. The racing will begin with the high speed, 51 kilometre Cancer Council Helpline Classic that afternoon.


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