Gerrans and Impey return, Ewan makes Grand Tour debut at Vuelta a Espana

Tue 18 Aug 2015

After their cruel blow on stage three of the Tour de France, 2013 maillot jaune wearers Simon Gerrans and Daryl Impey will return to racing at the Vuelta a Espana, the final Grand Tour of the 2015 season, this Saturday.

Joining them in a strong nine-man ORICA-GreenEDGE lineup is 21-year-old Australian Caleb Ewan, who will make his three-week stage race debut as the next step of his young and promising career.

The trio offer just three of a range of options for the Australian outfit that, after walking away with a stage win and three days in the red leader’s jersey last year, has set high objectives for the race between August 22 and September 13.

The diverse group of riders also includes Colombian Esteban Chaves who returns to the Spanish race for another general classification assault.

“We are going to shoot pretty high,” sport director Neil Stephens said. “We are coming off a fantastic Clasica San Sebastian and hopefully that is the trend of what is to come for the next month of racing in Spain.”

“We would like to get Esteban in the top ten on the general classification. When you look at the line up for the Tour of Spain there are some really good bike riders and to run top ten here would be something pretty huge.

“We also want to pull off a stage win and if we can pull off one, why not two?

“We are coming off a Tour de France being proud of what our guys managed when the odds were stacked up against them, but we didn’t walk away with the results we were hoping for so we are coming into this Grand Tour with a very motivated team.”

The 2015 edition of the Vuelta a Espana begins with a short 7.4km team time trial in Marbella and continues for another 20 stages including an individual time trial, six flat stages for sprinters, five mountain stages and eight stages described by organisers as ‘hilly’.

35-year-old Gerrans, who won a stage at the Spanish Grand Tour in 2009, will return from multiple wrist fractures for his fourth appearance, whilst 30-year-old Impey, returning from a broken collarbone, will debut at the race.

“Simon and Daryl, two very important members of the team in general and of course at the Tour of Spain, are coming off crashes at the Tour de France – both with broken bones,” Stephens said.

“Realistically, we can’t expect too much out of them in the first week as they get back into racing but over the three week block I am sure they are going to be able to pick out their moments to shine for the team.”

2014 Tour of California and Tour de Suisse stage winner Chaves enters the Vuelta a Espana after a stint at altitude in Colombia.

The 25-year-old was ORICA-GreenEDGE’s first general classification consideration at last year’s edition and returns in 2015 after twelve months of further development, including this year’s Giro d’Italia.

“Last year we had a bit of a play around with general classification with Esteban,” Stephens said. “In the first week or so he was around the top six or seven riders before he cracked.”

“I think his progression has been good. He rode through the Giro d’Italia, he went on to a great overall result at the Tour of Switzerland and we are hoping to get a good general classification result with him here.”

Also one of ORICA-GreenEDGE’s promising riders for the future is Ewan. The 21-year-old neo-pro will make his Grand Tour debut.

“This is a natural progression for Caleb, going onto a Grand Tour,” Stephens said. “But as we do with all of our young guys, we will certainly support him and have high hopes, but any pressure will only come from himself.”

“As a team we just want him to get out there for the experience. He will ride half of the race as a maximum, if not only a week to ten days.

“We have some great riders to guide him through – right from how he should handle the pressure before the race and the team presentation, to how to handle the media, the press conference and all the other little pressures that come with a Grand Tour.”

Rounding up the outfit is team captain Mathew Hayman, fellow Australian’s Cameron Meyer, Mitch Docker and Damien Howson and Belgian Jens Keukeleire.

“We have a bit of a mixture of guys in here,” Stephens said. “The good thing about this Tour of Spain team is that we have some designated workers.”

“Mat Hayman is famous for the work he can do for someone like Caleb Ewan but what people don’t see in the enormous amount of work that he can do for someone like Esteban Chaves.

“But Mat, along with Jens Keukeleire, Cameron Meyer and the other guys, they are all winners in their own right.

“At any given moment, when there are a lot of attacks going down, if any one of those members get in a break we can have full confidence they can finish the job and that’s the magic thing about the team this year.”

ORICA-GreenEDGE at the Vuelta a Espana (22 August to 13 September):

Esteban Chaves (COL, 25, 2nd appearance)
Mitch Docker (AUS, 28, 4th appearance
Caleb Ewan (AUS, 21, 1st appearance)
Simon Gerrans (AUS, 35, 4th appearance)
Mathew Hayman (AUS, 37, 3rd appearance)
Damien Howson (AUS, 23, 1st appearance)
Daryl Impey (RSA, 30, 1st appearance)
Jens Keukeleire (BEL, 26, 1st appearance)
Cameron Meyer (AUS, 27, 3rd appearance)