As the WorldTour dips into Switzerland for the Tour de Romandie, Orica-GreenEDGE's Swiss representative Michael Albasini is eager to shine.
We have several riders here who will be preparing for the Giro. They are our core sprint team. We’re bringing them to Romandie to fine tune the lead out train and get Gossy (Matt Goss) a win before the Giro.
With the six stage race offering a mix of finishes, climbs, sprints and two time trials, the Australian registered Orica-GreenEDGE team is hopeful it can walk away with at least one stage victory.
“A time trialist who can climb usually wins the overall,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson.
“Depending on how Alba (Albasini) feels, we might be able to do something with him for the overall.”
The 32-year-old Swiss rider will be given free rein on the punchy finishes but will work in service of Matt Goss for the sprints.
With the race book-ended by two time trials, Australian champion Luke Durbridge and Canadian Svein Tuft will hold the team's cards.
Stage wins are a priority for the Australian outfit. Like many teams, ORICA-GreenEDGE sees Romandie as an important race in the build-up to the Giro d’Italia.
“We are bringing a split team,” said Wilson. “We have several riders here who will be preparing for the Giro. They are our core sprint team. We’re bringing them to Romandie to fine tune the lead out train and get Gossy (Matt Goss) a win before the Giro. The other guys will be looking for personal opportunities on the medium mountain stages.”
Albasini, eager to make his mark on his home tour, sees several potential stages that suit his strengths.
“It’s been five years since I’ve done Romandie, and I’m quite happy to be back there,” said Albasini.
“There are some good stages for me in the race, especially the first three road stages. Maybe I can make some nice results there. We’ll also see what we can do with Matt in the sprints.”
“I would say stage two is the best chance for a bunch sprint,” added Wilson, “We’ve ticked that one off for Gossy. Any of the first three road stages could end in a sprint, so we’ll go into each of those with a two-pronged approach. Alba from a small group or we ride for Gossy in a bunch finish.”
The penultimate stage, also tagged as the queen stage, has four categorized one climbs that will certainly shake up the general classification. While stage four will be decisive, it’s likely that the eventual winner will not be decided until all the riders have tested their legs against the clock on the final stage in Geneva.
“With two time trial specialists in Luke and Svein, the final time trial is important for us as well,” said Wilson. “They’ll both want to see what they can do there.”
While Orica-GreenEDGE is fielding a versatile team they will face strong opposition on all fronts.
Mark Cavendish will be the man to beat in the sprints with his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team-mate, time trial world champion Tony Martin, a favourite for the races against the clock.
Defending Romandie champion Bradley Wiggins will not line up for the race, instead the lead duties will fall to his Sky team-mate Chris Froome. Froome will be the only Tour favourite to contest the Swiss tour, but will face many of the Giro d’Italia contenders - Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde and Amstel Gold winner Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff).
The Tour de Romandie begins with an individual time trial in Le Chable on Tuesday.
Cycling Central will have daily online highlights of the Tour de Romandie.