• The face of Australia's World Tour squad has become more cosmopolitan. (L-R) Adam Yates, Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates. (Getty)Source: Getty
Sports director Neil Stephens has downplayed Orica-Scott’s chances of taking the first leader’s jersey of the Vuelta a España through the opening team time trial tonight.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
19 Aug 2017 - 4:50 AM 

Orica-Scott has previously scalped Grand Tour race leadership with a strong TTT, but will focus on limiting losses at the start in Nimes, France, rather than optimal in the birthplace of denim.

“Any time that we have a team time trial in a race everyone thinks Orica-Scott is going to do well in it,” Stephens told Cycling Central from Nimes last night. “But the reality of it is our better team trialers are not here, they’re actually getting ready for the world championships.

“We’ve got a really good GC team, a really good team to support them but we’re a bit short on specialists to go for an optimum result tomorrow (Saturday).

“Every second you lose - that's hard to get back so we’ll be pushing it right to the line as far as we can. I suppose the difference is we won’t take risks.”

Identical British twins Adam and Simon Yates,25, as well as Colombian climber Esteban Chaves, 27, headline the outfit competing at the Vuelta, which is due to kick off in heat upward of 30 degrees Celsius.

The trio are commonly considered burgeoning Grand Tour contenders and Orica-Scott has effectively shifted its orientation with them, but how their individual and combined force compares with the field remains to be seen.

Stephens may be counting seconds in Nimes but he has tipped the Vuelta to be decided by minutes when it eventually reaches its conclusion in Madrid.

The last Grand Tour of the season is certainly not least this year with Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Fabio Aru (Astana) and Alberto Contador in his swan-song with Trek-Segafredo all competing.

"I think that may be our strength will be is if we can have two or three options going against one option from one team, and one from another," Stephens said.

"The podium in Madrid is going to be fantastic no matter what. Hopefully, we're up there in the battle for that podium, and if you're in the battle for the podium why not dream about winning it?

"Generally the Vuelta is decided by minutes but our way of thinking is the odds are stacked against us. We've got a team time trial at the start and we've got quite a long time trial getting into the third week. If you look just at those two events we're going to have minutes lost and we know that from the start.

"If we can limit those losses, or gain a little bit of time here and there, five seconds, 20 seconds, those three minutes we may lose in the individual time trial might come down to two minutes. Ours is more about clawing back the time we suppose we're going to lose further on down the road."

SBS will broadcast and live stream all stages of the Vuelta a España live from 19 August to 10 September.

The Yates's and Chaves all arrive at the Vuelta on a different footing. Simon will enter off the back of the Tour de France in which he finished seventh overall and, like Adam in 2016, won the white jersey. Adam will start on the back of a fifth place finish the Tour of Poland and with the Giro d'Italia, where he placed ninth on general classification, in his legs. Meanwhile, Chaves will surely want to make a statement after a season dogged with injury and, at the Tour, the loss of a family friend.

Chaves finished the Vuelta third last year, ahead of Simon Yates who was sixth.

"Esteban had a personal problem in July, but more than that he had an injury that kept him off his bike for several months at the start of the year and it put him behind the eight ball," Stephens said. "He wasn't in great shape at the Tour de France, but he came out healthy and well prepared. He's trained hard since then and he's in good shape now.

"Simon Yates, he finished the Tour de France really well and has kept on going. Can he maintain his form? I don't know. Adam had a frustrating Giro, he's thinking he can do better here at the [Vuelta].

"All three of them have reasons why they should be in great shape, but all three of them have got a bit of a doubt about them," Stephens continued.

"The course of the race, people start to fail and fall by the wayside. We've got to make sure that doesn't happen to our guys. Hopefully, we can get toward the end of the latter part of the race with two or three options there."