The Trofeo Palma kicked started the Challenge Majorca today. ORICA-GreenEDGE planned to ride for Leigh Howard on the ten-lap, 116 kilometre street circuit. The pancake flat course lent itself to a bunch sprint, and after his strong showing in the sprints at Tour de San Luis, Howard was an obvious contender for the finish.
“We were ready to ride for Leigh today,” said Sport Director Neil Stephens. “The main goal was to keep control through the race and support Leigh at the finish. We started today with ten riders, only Michael Albasini sat out. The whole team worked towards the goal in the sprint.”
A two rider breakaway gained an early advantage that they stretched to nearly four minutes during the final 50 kilometres. ORICA-GreenEDGE took charge of the chase that eventually led to their catch.
“The boys decided that break was a little too far away, and they got together to chase,” noted Stephens. “Christian [Meier] and Svein [Tuft] were the first to come to the front. Pieter [Weening] and Stuart [O’Grady] also did some of the early chase work. After that, the others contributed to give them a hand.”
The increase in tempo brought the field back together 20 kilometres from the finish, and the bunch readied themselves for the sprint.
“Tomas [Vaitkus] is really eager to be here and help out his teammates,” said Stephens. “He’s had a knee injury since the Giro d’Italia, and he’s happy to finally be back. His job today was to drop off our sprinters for the lead out. He went out too hard too early, and he dropped Mitch [Docker] and Leigh a bit too far away from the finish. They didn’t have enough to maneuver their way to the line. Leigh said he got caught up in the bunch at the finish and never had the possibility to open up his sprint full gas.”
While the team had specifically said they were targeted a race win today, Stephens is satisfied with what he saw.
“It’s the first race for a lot of riders, and we’re never really sure about anyone’s form until we see the race,” he explained. “I know it can be hard to understand that we’re satisfied even if the team isn’t up in the results, but we are. We need to work on our dynamic at the finish. Aside from the sprint, the rest of the race went really well. The team is super eager to race hard in Majorca, and it’s clear they're focused on the important races we have coming up after this.”