History and the future set to collide at the 100th Giro d’ItaliaMon 1 May 2017
2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Giro d’Italia - one of cycling’s three Grand Tours and second only to the Tour de France for history and prestige - and the three-week stage race that over the years has provided ORICA-SCOTT with the most success since the team’s inception in 2012.
2016 saw Colombian Esteban Chaves win the Maglia Rosa on stage 19 before going on to finish second overall and achieving the best ever general classification result for the Australian outfit and the team’s twelfth pink jersey.
This year the team will be led by the best young rider of last year’s Tour de France Adam Yates, with the 24-year-old Briton proving that he has both the ability and the mentality to lead a WorldTour team in one of cycling’s biggest races.
A breakthrough victory in the 2015 Clasica de San Sebastian followed by a spectacular fourth place finish at the 2016 Tour de France cemented Yates’ reputation and confirmed his undeniable talent.
“It will be my first time riding the Giro d’Italia, so that’s exciting,” explained Yates. “It will be something different to the last couple of years riding back-to-back Tours de France. The 100th edition gives the Giro some big prestige this year and makes it pretty special.”
“The aim is to get as close to the podium as possible. There is a lot of time trialling and a lot of big names but we are putting the work in, we are working hard and we will see how it goes.”
A relaxed environment mixed with a strong ethos of hard work and togetherness have become widely recognised as staples of the ORICA-SCOTT set up, alongside a collective ability to deal with pressure situations and produce consistent results at the highest level.
But a few years ago, before the general classification of a Grand Tour became a realistic target, the team’s horizon was marked with stage wins and in particular the opening team time trial, which if won, would yield the leader’s jersey and a chance to build on a solid start.
ORICA-SCOTT’s first pink jersey was won in Belfast in 2014 and spectacularly held until stage eight. The Australian team sped to a convincing victory in the opening team time trial followed up with another stage victory on stage seven to announce their arrival on the Grand Tour scene and laying down a marker for what was to follow over the next two years.
“We had a real opportunist approach in the beginning,” explained sport director Matt White. “The hunt for stage wins was the objective for Grand Tours and we did that very successfully, especially at the Giro d’Italia. The Giro proved to be a good hunting ground for us. It is a special race and one that as a team we always look forward to and want to do well in.”
“Wearing the leader’s jersey in a Grand Tour is a great privilege, but it also enables the riders to experience everything that comes along with that – the media spotlight, the additional pressure and pressure to perform. It’s a unique experience.”
2015 was a repeat performance. Again winning the opening stage team time trial, a stage three victory and the retention of the Maglia Rosa until stage five.
“Retaining the jersey also breeds confidence and allows the responsibility to pass throughout the team,” continued White. “We have been fortunate that in 2014 and 2015 we were able to hold onto the Maglia Rosa with different riders who each got the experience of leading a Grand Tour.”
Stage wins and leader’s jerseys had been won and it seemed like now was the time to start thinking about the general classification and 2016 saw the rise of the team as a bona fide contender, with the performances of Chaves in the Giro along with Simon Yates in the Vuelta a Espana and Adam at the Tour de France.
“For the last two years our focus has shifted to the general classification,” said White. “That is part of a natural progression within the team and also the development of our riders. Last year at the Giro we were second with Esteban, who then ran third with Simon Yates sixth overall at the Vuelta and fourth at the Tour de France with Adam. That shows great consistency for the three Grand Tours.”
“Adam has never done the Giro before. Initially we were going to run with Simon alongside Adam and go for a two-pronged approach which would have been a luxury, but now Simon will go with Esteban to the Tour and Adam will lead the team at the Giro. Nothing has changed in terms of our objectives.
“The Giro is very different from the Tour, the environment within the race is more relaxed and I think that will suit Adam. Some of the stages are very fluid and unlike the TDF he will be able to cruise to a certain extent and recover between the mountains and the time trials.”
At the tender age of 24 Yates’ primary target will be winning the young rider’s white jersey, this will automatically lead to a high place on GC. Having won that category at the Tour de France in 2016, the experience could prove vital for this year’s Giro as the Briton goes up against one of the most competitive fields ever assembled at the Italian race.
“The pressure does not faze him he has been racing as a team leader since he made his debut with us and we are just treating the Giro as another big step in his development,” concluded White. “He will have the full support of the team and he is riding with confidence, but the facts are we are not one of the big pre-race favourites, for sure that is between Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).”
“The mid race 39km time trial will be real challenge for Adam, but it will run over mixed terrain and after ten days of racing it will be a big turning point in the race for the overall winners.
“The final week is peppered with hilltop finishes and incredibly high passes and we will be prepared for the favourites to be riding aggressively and of course we’ll be encouraging Adam to do the same.”
The 100th Giro d’Italia starts on May 5th and concludes on May 28th.
Photos courtesy of ©TDWsport.com