• Ruben Plaza riding for Spain at the 2015 UCI Road World Championships (Sirotti)Source: Sirotti
It has been a busy off-season for the team strategists at Orica-GreenEDGE as they drive its transition to a multidimensional force able to be competitive in all races through the season.
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Source:
Cycling Central
29 Oct 2015 - 9:06 AM 

With emerging general classification (GC) contenders, the Yates (Adam and Simon) brothers and Esteban Chaves extending their contracts, it was always going to be interesting to see how Orica-GreenEDGE went about shaping the squad for the next few seasons.

Known as a sprinting and classics squad in their first few seasons, their biggest results came from the likes of Simon Gerrans, Michael Matthews and Michael Albasini, who all combine climbing and sprinting ability to take wins from reduced bunch sprints.

They also made sure to dominate the Australian summer of cycling, with particular emphasis on the January races of the Mitchelton Bay Series, Australian Road National Championships, Santos Tour Down Under and the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.

Now the squad has clearly shifted the balance with the recruitment of climbing specialists from Europe at the expense of those more suited to the flatter races.

Ruben Plaza (35) and Amets Txurruka (32) are two new Spanish climbers on the team. Both are very experienced in supporting their team leaders and have the talent to take any opportunities for themselves - as Plaza showed in winning Stage 16 at the 2015 Tour de France.

And both are very smart buys for a team that usually finds it difficult to compete with the likes of Team Sky, Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo in a bidding war.

Securing the Yates twins for 2016 and Chaves through to 2018 would have hit the budget, even while established stars like Matthews and Gerran continue to command big salaries.

Plaza and Txurruka will be the main lieutenants in the mountains for the big stage races, and it will be important for them to mesh well and develop the rapport that goes with that role. But morale is high at the team and if the experience of Chaves is any guide, fitting in will be easy for both.

Other riders they will likely be mentoring are the neo-pro additions to the squad, Robert Power and Jack Haig. Both are home-grown climbing talents and look to have big futures ahead of them in the professional peleton. But for their first season they will largely be working for their teammates under the experienced eyes of the senior riders and team management.

There are a few other additions that address specific needs within the squad and look to have strengthened the team overall.

Christopher Juul-Jensen is an interesting pick-up for Orica-GreenEDGE. Regarded as one of the comedians of the pro peleton, he is a handy all-rounder and is a straight replacement for Australian Simon Clarke, who leaves to join Cannondale-Garmin.

Juul-Jensen took his biggest win of the season just after signing on for 2016, winning the Tour of Denmark and immediately proving his worth. It is yet to be seen what specific role he takes within the squad but given his histroy it's expected that the cobbled classics and punchy races will be the focus.

Australian Alex Edmondson will likely adopt a similar role to Power and Haig in his neo-pro season. He took a historic win in 2015 as the first Australian to win the under 23 Tour of Flanders, but has had a series of surgeries since mid-season and has been away from the racing scene for some time.

Coming from a strong track background, Edmondson has yet to show all that he is fully capable of on the road. He looks like a true classics rider but the team won’t want to pigeonhole him this early in his career.

Once an understudy to Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb, Luka Mezgec has also been recruited with other goals in mind. The Slovenian is a climbing sprinter, perhaps not as good a climber as Matthews, but with similar speed in a finish. He will likely do leadout duties for Caleb Ewan and Matthews, and like Plaza and Txurruka, can also take his own chances when let off the leash.

Mezge's 2015 season was a lean one, with only a solitary win at the lowly Tour of Haut Var to celebrate, but team will be hoping that he can recapture his 2014 form where he won six races, including the final stage of the Giro d’Italia.

Overall this is an Orica-GreenEDGE squad that will look to go bigger and better in the coming season. Even if Gerrans doesn’t bounce back from a disappointing crash-effected season, the team will look to replace those results with wins in stage races and good classification results in the Grand Tours.

The sprinting will be stronger than ever, with Ewan improving to challenge the best in the world on the flat, and Matthews increasingly the chosen man for the hillier courses. The new-look squad appears able to work to those traditional strengths even as they build for the high mountains.

Orica-GreenEDGE currently has 23 riders on the books for next season, so further additions to the roster remain a possibility.