ORICA-GreenEDGE kick off Ardennes campaign at Amstel Gold RaceWed 15 Apr 2015
ORICA-GreenEDGE will kick off their Ardennes Classics campaign at the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, supporting 2015 Paris-Nice stage winner Michael Matthews in the first of three good opportunities for the Australian team.
After achieving their best result in history at a cobbled classic at the Paris Roubaix last weekend, a sixth place courtesy of Jens Keukeleire, the outfit are looking forward to a period of racing that has traditionally been a successful one.
“The Ardennes has been a really good hunting ground for us since our inception,” sport director Matt White said.
“We are confident Michael will be very competitive for us again on Sunday. It’s a course that suits his characteristics, we have a really strong team to support him and he has shown good form with some early season wins.”
ORICA-GreenEDGE has twice podiumed at the Amstel Gold Race courtesy of 2014 Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Simon Gerrans. The 34-year-old has finished third on three occasions at the opening Ardennes Classic, including in the past two editions for the Australian team.
Gerrans has recently completed his first block of racing for 2015 in Spain and, as the next step in preparation for his targets ahead, will be a crucial support for Matthews alongside fellow 2013 Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Daryl Impey and three-time 2014 Tour de Romandie stage winner Michael Albasini.
The experience of Mathew Hayman and climbing abilities of 2012 Vuelta a Espana king of the mountains Simon Clarke, multiple Giro d’Italia stage winner Pieter Weening and Canadian workhorse Christian Meier will also boost Matthews in the 251km race that features 4000m of climbing courtesy of 35 ascents.
“Amstel Gold Race is like the Tour of Flanders with no pavé,” White explains. “There are a number of crucial sections, it’s a very nervous, technical race, narrow roads and a lot of turning and changing of direction.”
“There is only one part of Holland that is hilly and the Amstel Gold Race certainly covers it. Positioning is crucial and we are lucky enough to have a couple of locals in Weening and Hayman.
“For us as well, we have taken this core Classics group up to the Ardennes for the last three years so they are attuned to the demands of the race, these guys work seamlessly together and it makes a huge difference."
White identifies the final climb, which has seen the race won in recent years by solo or duo moves, as crucial.
“The Cauberg, which is the last climb of the day takes you to just outside the final kilometre of the race, is one where the race is certainly lost,” White said.
“The wind when you get to the top will usually have an effect on the finish of the race. If it’s a tail wind, the attacks of the favourites can stick. But if it’s a block head wind, usually a bigger group can come back together.
“The usual favourites are Dan Martin, Joaquim Rodriguez, Alejandro Valverde, Michal Kwiatowski and three-time winner Philippe Gilbert. They are the guys who I see will play it out on that last climb.”
ORICA-GreenEDGE at Amstel Gold Race (Sunday, 19 April):