In His Own Words: Sport Director Neil Stephens on La Rioja

Mon 1 Apr 2013

ORICA-GreenEDGE put three riders in the top ten at Vuelta Ciclista La Rioja. Michael Matthews snagged his first European podium of the season, coming in second to Francesco Lasco (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) in a bunch sprint. Not far behind, Daryl Impey slotted into fifth place with Leigh Howard three spots further back in eighth. Both Matthews and Impey used the one day race in preparation for the Vuelta Pais Vasco that begins tomorrow. In his own words, Sport Director Neil Stephens gives a brief account of the race.

We rode well from the start and team covered a few different moves. We were motivated for a bunch finish, and we weren’t going to let a break go away without one of us. There is one part of the course that is much more difficult than the others, and we really put the pressure on when we hit that part of the race.

Our efforts forced a split, and 14 riders broke away from the field. There were seven riders from our team, five from Movistar and two from Euskaltel-Euskadi. We took the bulls by the horn with that move. It was really aggressive racing on our part.

The gap was out to about 35” when we were taken off course. Officials stopped the race, and they restarted us with a 20” advantage. It was bad timing and threw us off our plan a bit.

The break went back to the bunch, and we rode from there to the finish. At first things went according to plan. [Michael] Albasini and Clarkey [Simon Clarke] were doing a very good job at this part of the race. They covered moves and Albasini even broke away for a little bit.

The race ends with a circuit, and we were meant to go twice over the finish line before actually contesting the finish on the third time to the line. Right in the last kilometre, Brett [Lancaster] got a bit mixed up. He thought it was just another time over the line and then realised that it was the actual finish, but it was too late. He got swamped doing the lead out. The guys fought back to get second, fifth and eighth, but it’s an opportunity lost.

We won the team jersey. Albasini won the combine [combination] jersey. We’re happy with these things. Still, we were going for the win, and it’s a bit annoying not have gotten it today with how strong we rode.

The boys are looking really good for Pais Vasco. Michael Albasini and Simon were somewhat of a question mark before today’s race. They’re not question marks anymore. They helped out their teammates quite a bit, and I hold them back from not overdoing it for tomorrow. They did a big training block with Quody [team trainer Mark Quod] in Tenerife, and we can see that it paid off for them. It should be a fantastic day of racing to kick things off in Pais Vasco tomorrow.