Options aplenty for ORICA-GreenEDGE at happy hunting ground of Pais Vasco

Fri 3 Apr 2015

ORICA-GreenEDGE has never walked away empty handed from the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, which starts on Monday, and if sport director Neil Stephens has anything to do with it, 2015 will be no different.

The Australian outfit, under the charge of Stephens, will field a top-class eight-man team for the Spanish tour and have ambitious targets for stage and general classification results.

“It would be great top get someone in the top five overall and it would be great to win a stage,” Stephens said. 

“Hopefully a top five is achievable, although it is a really great field which to a degree is out of our hands. 

“But we have never walked away from the Tour of the Basque country empty handed, in terms of stage wins, so I will be pig-headed and say that I want to walk away with both of those objectives.”

For the first time all three climbing young guns - Colombian Esteban Chaves and British twins Adam and Simon Yates – will race together. With more experienced campaigner Pieter Weening, who finished sixth overall at the event in 2013, joining them, ORICA-GreenEDGE has a quartet of serious overall challengers.

Then you look to the other half of the roster that features four world-class finishers in Michael Matthews, Simon Gerrans, Daryl Impey and Michael Albasini and it is a threatening attack. 

One thing a packed line up does present, is the need for a very smart tactical race, one that Stephens believes out of any team, ORICA-GreenEDGE can bring.

“On paper, all the fans will look at our line up and think wow this is probably the strongest team we have put into the Basque country,” Stephens said.

“But by the same token we have Gerrans coming back from injury, Matthews maybe going for stage wins, then the three guys for general classification. So who is going to do the ‘donkey’ work?

“The good thing we have is the spirit of our team and how well they can help each other.

“It’s going to be really tactically challenging, we certainly don’t want to be using our energies on stages that might affect us in other areas later in the week, but on paper it’s a great team, a great bunch of guys and we hope to do well in it.”

The Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco is a notoriously tough stage race with ‘a lot of up and down’. 

Stephens has identified the first two stages as ones that might suit ORICA-GreenEDGE, particularly stage two into Vittoria where the team has won in every year it has raced.   

The following two stages step up in difficulty and will likely see the first splits in general classification before the final road stage on day five that Stephens has earmarked the most demanding of the week.

The six-day Tour concludes with an individual time trial, although not your typical race against the clock.

“The final time trial is not what you imagine a time trial to be like,” Stephens said. “The guys that are up for GC, this time trial is more suited to them.”

“It’s not like a typical time trial where our climbers might lose time, they will actually be able to defend the position they have coming into the final.”

ORICA-GreenEDGE at Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco (6 – 11 April):

Michael Albasini
Esteban Chaves
Simon Gerrans
Daryl Impey
Michael Matthews
Pieter Weening
Adam Yates
Simon Yates