ORICA-GreenEDGE Begins European Race Campaign in MallorcaSat 8 Feb 2014
The ORICA-GreenEDGE European campaign begins in Mallorca on Sunday as the team’s eight rider squad tackles four days of challenging racing on the Spanish island. The Challenge Mallorca is broken up into four individual races with days that cater to sprinters, climbers and rouleurs.
“There are a couple of strange things about Challenge Mallorca,” said Sport Director Neil Stephens. “It’s a sum of four days of individual race. Each day there is an individual winner. In the old days, there was a jersey for the unofficial general classification, but that’s not done anymore.”
“The reason the race is set up this way is because of a lot of teams go to Mallorca as part of their early season preparation,” Stephens added. “The riders they bring are not obliged to race every day or finish every race to start the following day. Teams may have riders that come out specifically for one race and want to have a rest the day after, and they have the possibility to do that with this race format.”
Team may enter anywhere between eight and 12 riders for the Challenge and rotate their riders throughout the course of the event. In the past, ORICA-GreenEDGE have taken advantage of this flexibility. This year, the team brings an eight rider squad.
“We’re really quite busy with the Sun Tour and Qatar going on at the same time,” Stephens explained. “A lot of teams will send more than the required numbers of riders, which is a minimum of eight. That’s not the case with us. With guys getting ready for Langkawi, guys recovering from injury and two other race programs, the reality is that we only had eight riders to bring with us.”
“This means all eight of our riders have to start each day,” Stephens added. “That’s not to say they will finish every day. For example, Esteban Chaves is coming off a serious injury. He’ll start each day, but he may pull out when we think that’s enough.”
With a flexible schedule, varied terrain and warmer weather than most of Northern Europe, Mallorca has long been a popular option for teams looking for early season race opportunities for their riders. ORICA-GreenEDGE hosted a team training camp in Mallorca last month, which served as a logistical warm-up of sorts for the race series.
“We’ve opted to include the race in our schedule because it fits in well with our training camp,” said Stephens. “We spent 12 days over in Mallorca in January, so we’ve already have the vehicles over there. We’ll use the same hotel and the same staff, so everything is familiar.”
“From a racing perspective, it’s a great race for February,” Stephens added. “The weather is good. The terrain is varied – which is nice for both racing and training. As a bike racer, I used to race in Mallorca regularly, and I found it worked well with my preparations where I could race one day and not race the next.”
ORICA-GreenEDGE made its first appearance at the Challenge Mallorca in 2013 where Leigh Howard’s early season form was on fine display as he won both the second and fourth days of racing. Although Howard will race the Tour of Qatar this week rather than return to Mallorca, his teammates are eager to continue the Australian outfit’s success on the Spanish island.
“We have several of our younger riders here in Chaves and the Yates brothers, and we want to install our work ethic with the young guys,” said Stephens. “Christian Meier, Ivan Santaromita, Pieter Weening and Adam Yates raced in Argentina , so they have some racing in their legs already.”
“Pete suffered a heavy crash in Argentina, and he scraped his ways through most of the race,” Stephens added. “He’s still recovery from that, so we have taken a lot of the pressure away from him. Michael Matthews is coming off a hard Tour Down Under and Michael Albasini kits up for the first time this season. With the group we have, we probably have a more training focus approach to the race this year.”
That’s not to say the Australian outfit is without ambition in Mallorca. The team has brought riders capable of contending for a spot on the podium on nearly every day of racing.
“I tend to think in every race except the first one, which is a pure sprint, we have a shot at getting a result,” said Stephens. “I think we should be around the mark on the second, third and fourth days. We’ll give the young guys some chances, too – Simon Yates will have freedom on the third stage. Getting on the podium in his first race is a big ask, but we’ll let him give it a shot.”
Here, Stephens takes us on a day-by-day preview of Challenge Mallorca:
Day 1 – Trofeo Palma (116km):
The first stage is in Palma, and most of the day is spent on the shore. All the big yachts on the marina serve as the backdrop. It’s a big spectacle, a big showcase for professional cycling. The course is an 11.6 kilometre loop that the peloton covers ten times. The flat, fast route will inevitably end with a field sprint.
Day 2 – Trofeo Campos (183km):
Leigh Howard won on an identical course last year. The route is a little bit lumpy, including several small hills and the category four Col de Santanyi. Crosswinds are likely on this part of the island. Today is a day for the rouleurs or a gritty sprinter.
Day 3 – Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana (153km):
This hilliest of the four day of racing, day three is for the climbers amongst the bunch. Weather could be a factor on this day as any bad weather in Mallorca tends to say around the mountains. The route contains two category three climbs, two category two climbs and the category one Coll de Puig Major, which the riders affectionately call ‘The Pig”.
Day 4 – Trofeo Alcudia (162km):
This race has been made a touch harder than when Leigh won it last year. We remain in the hills, but the climbs are nowhere near as difficult as the ones we see on day three. Trofeo Alcudia features four category two climbs, including another ascent of “The Pig” in the reverse direction. The hills are sandwiched between a gentle 30 kilometre introduction to the day and a 50 kilometre descent to the finish line in Port d’Alcudia
ORICA-GreenEDGE for Challenge Mallorca: