A return to the â€˜white roadsâ€™ of Tuscany for ORICA-GreenEDGEWed 2 Mar 2016
ORICA-GreenEDGE will line up for their second appearance at Strade Bianche this Saturday looking to build on the solid performances in Europe last weekend.
Two back-to-back top ten results at the Boucles Drome Ardeche along with an encouraging team display at Kuurne-brussels-Kuurne have provided the squad with a confident start to the early classics season.
Sports director Neil Stephens described how the team are looking to continue along the same lines as last weekend's races.
“At this time the aim of a race like Strade Bianche for us is to continue making the transition from the solid block of training we achieved in South Africa to full on competitive race mode," Stephens said. “Last weekend was successful to a degree because we were competitive in our first European outings of the season.”
This will be the first European race for some of the riders while the likes of Christian Meier, Jens Keukeleire, Alexander Edmondson, Luke Durbridge and Chris Juul-Jensen were all in action last weekend. Promising neo-pro Jack Haig makes his first European appearance for the team after an excellent showing at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in January whilst former under-23 world time trial champion Damien Howson completes the line up for ORICA-GreenEDGE.
Meier, Howson and Haig will provide support for the team as they look to place riders in good position for the final run into the picturesque hilltop town of Siena.
“At our first outing in this race in 2015 we were competitive in the final part of the race, which was pleasing," Stephens continued. "This year I believe we go into the race slightly better prepared."
“The best way for us to fine tune our form is to get in amongst it in the final kilometres. We have a good balance in the squad and will make sure we give it a good crack on the day.”
52 of the 176 kilometre route will be raced on the famous ‘white roads’ of the Tuscany region of Italy giving the race a unique atmosphere and, since its inception in 2007, a reputation as an early Spring precursor to the April cobbled classics. Held the week before Tirreno Adriatico and two weeks before Milan-San Remo, Strade Bianche has become an important fixture on the European racing calendar as riders look to assess and refine their early season form.
With bad weather forecasted for the race, nine gravel sectors to contend with and climbs with gradients of up to 18%, it is gearing up to be a gruelling contest.
ORICA-GreenEDGE at Strade Bianche (5 March):