In His Own Words: Neil Stephens Previews G.P. CittÃ di LuganoFri 28 Feb 2014
A victim of atrocious weather conditions, the one day G.P. Città di Lugano was cancelled last season. Teams and race staff were sent home before the race began. It was a dismal spring season in Europe with many races cancelled or subjected to bitterly cold and miserably wet conditions.
While the weather reports out of Lugano aren't looking promising, conditions appear better than last year and ORICA-GreenEDGE is hopeful that the race will go on as scheduled this year. In his own words, Sport Director Neil Stephens reviews the main characteristics of the Swiss race, names the team goals and the outlines his expectations of the riders representing ORICA-GreenEDGE in Lugano.
For a lot of our guys, Lugano represents a reintroduction into European racing. Some of our line-up hasn’t raced on European soil as of yet this season. Without the early season races in Belgium, Lugano plus Camaorie have become our hit out ahead of the the first big European stage races: Paris-Nice and Tirreno Adriatico.
Lugano is a very hard race to control. It’s an upbeat sort of race with a lot of attacks. The breakaways are prominent throughout the race. From the results you’ll see that it is a demanding race – late breakaway, late move, small group.
Two things need to happen to call this race a success when it’s a wrap. Obviously, I want the race to actually go ahead. It’s unfortunate for the organisers that there’s a chance for the second year the event might be cancelled.
Second, I would like to walk away saying that our presence was felt in the race. This is the sort of race where you roll your sleeves up and really have a go. I want to go on the front foot. Mallorca was about form and getting to know each other. Lugano is about working with each other and making our mark. I can’t say that we’ll be on the podium, but I want to look back at the race and know that we’ve done something memorable.
If the race goes on, it will be a tough sort of race in terms of weather. We are bringing a group of guys who are used to these difficult conditions. They are the brave, attacking-type of riders that aren't afraid to take their chances.
If the race comes down to a smaller group, Leigh Howard is our guy. He had some success in the sprints in Oman, so we know the form is there. If he can make it over the hills with the bunch, he has a chance to do something.
Michael Albasini is the type of rider who comes to mind when I think about this race. Of all our riders, Albasini is most suited for this course. He loves racing well in his home country, and although this race is not near the area where he lives and trains, any race in Switzerland is extra important to him. Unfortunately, Albasini has recently fallen sick so he may be a late withdrawal from the line-up.
Simon Clarke is looking to back up the form he had in Australia when he took out a stage and the GC at the Sun Tour. Clarkey lives down the road in Varese, just 30km from Lugano, so he is familiar with this terrain. This sort of race typifies his style of racing – he likes to go on the attack. Clarkey is tough and fast in a small group. If there is a one day race that is built for Simon, it just might be this one.
Christian Meier is the ultimate teammate. He thrives on working for his teammates. He’s in great shape and really motivated as usual. I can count on him to put it on the line for his team on Sunday as I do every time he pins on a number.
Ivan Santaromita is another rider that is racing near his home base. I expect Santaromita to have some extra motivation. He is racing adjacent to the Italian boarder in the Italian colours in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. He has said he really wants to do well here and in Camaiore
Cam Meyer has had a solid start to the 2014 season with strong rides in the Sun Tour and Oman. He raced really well in a supporting role for Clarkey in Australia, and we know he's looking forward to taking his own chances in the next couple of races.
Adam Yates had a great race in Argentina, although it might have taken a little bit out of him. In Mallorca we saw he was in good shape but not right on top of his game. We'll see if he's had time to recover since mid-February or if his recent move to Girona and a team training camp last week has left him slightly empty.
Simon Yates has been a pleasure to work with at races and training camps so far. While Simon’s style of racing is different than that of his brother’s, I think they are both suited to this sort of race. I look forward to going through the one day races with them as I think this is where they are going to excel in the first half of the season. Whether it’s in an assisting role or going out for a personal result, we are going to see good things from them.
ORICA-GreenEDGE at G.P. Città di Lugano: