Orica-GreenEDGE names team to target Vuelta stage wins

Simon Clarke on the 2012 Vuelta a Espana (Getty Images)

Orica-GreenEDGE will continue its usual line of attack by targeting stage wins at the Vuelta a España.

The team's nine-man squad for the Spanish Grand Tour includes two Vuelta stage winners, Simon Gerrans and Simon Clarke, while Sam Belwey and Michael Matthews will make their Grand Tour debut.

The team enjoyed a successful Vuelta campaign last year with Simon Clarke winning a stage and the mountains classification jersey.

“We’ve put together a dynamic team that will target stage wins in Spain,” said Sport Director Neil Stephens.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

Fresh off two wins and two days in yellow at the Tour de France, Simon Gerrans is eager to stage hunt in Spain as part of his final preparations for the World Championships in late September. Gerrans earmarks stages that suit his ability to survive lumpy days with hard finishes contested by a reduced bunch.

Like Gerrans, Clarke will also be hoping to repeat his stage success.

Beyond the opportunists, Leigh Howard and Michael Matthews are looking to leave their mark in the fast finishes.

Howard had a strong start to his season but was forced to rethink his race schedule after crashing out of the Giro d’Italia in early May. The Australian returned to racing in Poland last month and has enjoyed a steady return of form and speed in his build-up to the Spanish Grand Tour.

“Leigh was a major part of both of Jens Keukeleire’s wins at Burgos last week,” noted 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.”

Matthews recently scored two stunning wins at the Tour of Utah, along with the points jersey. His victories came on the heels of five second place finishes sprinkled throughout the first seven months of the season. The Vuelta a España will be Matthews’s first Grand Tour.  

“Michael has been a very exciting young rider to work with this year,” said Stephens. “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.”

“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.”

Bewley’s season was disrupted by a broken collarbone, meaning his race program has been lighter than anticipated. A strong performance at the Tour of Utah earned him his Vuelta berth and Grand Tour debut.

“Sam is a very important element in our team time trial squad for the World Championships,” said Stephens.

“At this stage, we plan to race Sam for the first two weeks where he will do some essential support work for the team. We hope the racing gives him that final edge for the TTT in mid-September.”

Baden Cooke will provide leadership support and with Mitch Docker work to support the sprinters, while Wesley Sulzberger and Canadian Christian Meier round out the team.

ORICA-GreenEDGE for Vuelta a España:
Baden Cooke (AUS), Christian Meier (CAN), Leigh Howard (AUS), Michael Matthews (AUS), Mitch Docker (AUS), Sam Bewley (NZL), Simon Clarke (AUS), Simon Gerrans (AUS) and Wesley Sulzberger (AUS)

SBS will have daily highlights of the Vuelta a Espana as well as eight stages live.

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