ORICA-GreenEDGE has announced its nine rider squad for the 2014 Tour de France. More than half the squad make their Tour debut with five first timers. The remaining four were part of the successful team that scored two stage wins and a four day stint in the yellow jersey last year.
"This year we are going to the Tour without a sprinter for the flat stages and will be targeting numerous stages,” said Sport Director Matt White. “The goal for the team is to walk away with a stage win.”
The nine riders who will line up in Leeds are: Jens Keukeleire, Luke Durbridge, Mathew Hayman, Michael Albasini, Michael Matthews, Simon Clarke, Simon Gerrans, Simon Yates and Svein Tuft.
"I am very happy with the roster we have assembled," said White. “It’s a good mix of youth and experience.”
Simon Gerrans scored ORICA-GreenEDGE’s first Tour de France stage win last year when he won stage three from a reduced bunch sprint. The following day he moved in to the yellow jersey when ORICA-GreenEDGE won the team time trial. He has scored four victories already this season including a national road title, a stage at the Tour Down Under, his third Tour Down Under overall victory and his second monument at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Gerrans has a stage win at each of the Grand Tours and will be looking to add another win here.
"He is our team leader," explained White. "Over the last couple of years Gerrans has won some of the biggest races on the calendar. He’s won Milan-Sanremo, Liège and a stage of the Tour de France. We know we can count on Simon to deliever results when the stakes are high.”
Michael Matthews made his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a España last year and came away with two stage wins. He added a third Grand Tour stage win at the Giro d’Italia last May where he spent six days in the pink jersey. Matthews now lines up for his third straight Grand Tour and his first Tour de France where he will look to increase his Grand Tour stage win tally.
"Michael is coming in to the Tour with a very good build up and some of the biggest results of his career in the month of May," said White. "His goal in his first Tour de France is to win a stage and will have multiple opportunities to attempt that. The green jersey is not an objective. The objective is to win a stage of the Tour de France in his first start."
Debutant Mat Hayman will serve as the road captain. The Australian played an integral role in ORICA-GreenEDGE’s spring classics campaign, providing crucial leadership and guidance to the young team.
"He now takes the record off Svein Tuft as the oldest debutant," said White. "He might not have done the Tour de France, but he has done nearly every single race on the calendar. It's his first Tour de France, but he is more than ready. He is a very good tactician, a calming influence and a strong leader.”
Svein Tuft made his Tour de France debut last year where he proved integral to the team’s victory on the stage four team time trial that put Simon Gerrans in the yellow jersey. In recognition of his selfless work for the team, Tuft was the first rider to cross the line on the opening stage team time trial at the Giro d’Italia last May where he pulled on the coveted pink jersey for one day before passing it off to Matthews. Tuft was an obvious inclusion in the team’s Tour squad. His selection is in large part due to his versatility.
"Svein is one of the lynchpins in the team," said White. "He’s a very positive influence on our young guys. With Svein and Hayman, we’ve got great leadership. We have a very young team with some old heads to guide them.”
Simon Clarke rode his first Tour de France last year and repeatedly went on the attack when the road rose. In his first Grand Tour, the 2012 Vuelta a España, Clarke won a mountain stage from a breakaway and the mountains classification. Earlier in the season, Clarke snagged his first stage race victory at the Herald Sun Tour. Expect Clarke to go stage hunting during his three weekes in Great Britain and France.
"Clarkey is a guy we turn to for multiple reasons,” said White. “He is quite versatile on various terrain, and he’s a great team player. In the key stages, he will play a support role, but he will get plenty of opportunities for himself as well.”
Michael Albasini is one of two riders in the team’s 2014 squad who appeared in the team’s first two Tours. The Swiss all-rounder has three wins in 2014, all coming at the Tour de Romandie. After a mid season break, he picked up a podium finish at the Tour de Suisse and second in the road race at the Swiss Championships.
"Alba is a race winner," said White. "He came so close last year to winning a stage. He’s a guy we can rely on to work for the team or take chances for himself. Alba's going in with some great form that we know he will put to good use.”
Time trial specialist Luke Durbridge makes his Tour de France debut. The reigning Oceania Road Champion wore the white jersey of best young rider on stage two of the Giro and looks to gain experience in what will be his third Grand Tour.
"Durbo's original plan was always to do the Tour de France," said White. "Some may have seen his broken collarbone as a big obstacle but he has worked very hard since his crash in the Giro to be ready. The way he worked during his recovery shows his dedication and professionalism.”
After two breakthrough stage wins at Vuelta a Burgos last year, Jens Keukeleire has been a consistent finisher for the team this season. He recently posted a top five finish on stage six of the Critérium du Dauphiné. Keukeleire shines in the spring classics, and his first Tour will serve as a further step in his development.
"Jens has been developing well,” said White. “He has shown his versatility in the Giro over the past couple of years. He is certainly ready for the Tour de France. He is a guy we are very comfortable with in breakaways on medium mountain stages and the flat."
Simon Yates has excelled in his first year as a professional. The Briton will line up for his first Grand Tour on home soil when it starts in Leeds. A broken collarbone at the Tour of Turkey saw his season interrupted. In his return to racing at Tour de Slovenie, Yates finished seventh overall and collected the best young rider jersey.
"Simon has certainly achieved a lot more than we would have imagined up to this point,” said White. “It wasn't the plan to bring him into the roster for the Tour de Franc, but for what we want to achieve as a team, he’s a great fit. It is no secret that we are targeting the intermediate mountain stages, and Simon has shown in his results throughout the year that he is more than capable of great results. "
"Simon’s inclusion begs the question of Adam’s exclusion,” White noted. “Simon’s broken collarbone in the Tour of Turkey has been a blessing in disguise. One of the reasons Adam is not going is because he has been racing and on very good condition since January. It wouldn't be a wise decision for us to send Adam. With Simon’s forced break due to injury, he’s fresh and ready to race.”
White expects his Tour de France nine to be competitive in what he considers a highly challenging Tour de France.
"This is the toughest first week of the Tour de France in the modern era," said White. "The second stage in Sheffield is really like a mini Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Then to top that off, the second stage back in France is like a mini Paris-Roubaix. It's certainly got it all".
ORICA-GreenEDGE for the Tour de France: