ORICA-GreenEDGE Names Giro d'Italia Squad

Mon 29 Apr 2013

ORICA-GreenEDGE has named its nine man squad for the Giro d’Italia. The selected riders will target specific stages of the first Grand Tour of the season. The team has a two-pronged attack in mind during their three weeks in Italy – furthering the development of the team as a whole and working towards the Tour de France. The nine riders are: Brett Lancaster, Christian Meier, Jens Keukeleire, Jens Mouris, Leigh Howard, Luke Durbridge, Matt Goss, Pieter Weening and Svein Tuft.

“At every race we try to cover our bases. Sometimes the team is chosen because of the team time trial or overall goals,” explained Sport Director Neil Stephens. “Sometimes we chose the opportunists who know how to go after a crafty stage win.”

The line-up for this Giro will bring a well-rounded mix of talent to Italy. There is an even spread of riders in the back pocket for each of the team’s goals: riders in development, riders for the sprints and riders who are capable of going the distance in a break.

“Above everything, we’ll work hard on the lead out train for the sprinters,” explained Sport Director Neil Stephens. “Also, of second importance, is allowing the opportunist to go in breaks in the second half of the Giro. We hope the consequence of meeting these goals means marking off stage wins in the record books.”

Matt Goss is an obvious leader of the team. The fast man from Tasmania gave ORICA-GreenEDGE its first Grand Tour win last year in a spectacular sprint finish in Horsens, Denmark. The 2013 edition will mark his fourth Giro start. Delivering Goss to a stage victory will be a big focus for the team.

“Matt has had a solid start to the year,” said Stephens. “He pulled off a good stage win at Tirreno-Adriatico in rainy, complicated conditions. He’s had a great run in the finish at other races as well. At this year’s Giro, we will be looking to Gossy for another stage win. We have a little pocket of riders that we will bring to support him in the sprints.”

Brett Lancaster, one of Australia’s most respected domestiques, fills an important spot on the roster. His Grand Tour experience, which includes six previous editions of the Giro, is invaluable. A prologue specialist, Lancaster won the opening stage of the Giro in 2005 and wore the pink jersey for one day.

“Brett is a key rider in Matt’s lead out train,” noted Stephens. “Brett has worked in this role for many years. He has a fantastic rapport with Gossy and the younger members of the team that has established him as a leader in the train. Brett is also a strong team time trial rider. Although this year’s team time trial is a bit atypical, we expect Brett to be one of best on our team in this discipline.”

Jens Mouris enjoyed a very solid start to the season, stepping up in the cobbled classics when Svein Tuft fell ill. He comes off a well-deserved mini break to race his first Giro d’Italia and second career Grand Tour.

“Jens is looking forward to honing his skills in the Giro,” Stephens said. “He’s an important rider for the team time trial and certainly in the lead out train as well. Jens is the kind of rider who will be able to fill in the gaps whenever we need him for any type of general work.”

Luke Durbridge is the current Australian team time trial champion and road champion. An outstanding performer in the race of truth, he’s already had multiple wins on the international stage in his burgeoning career. The Giro will be a large undertaking for Durbridge as he makes his Grand Tour debut in just his second year of professional racing.

“Luke has stepped it up a level this year and was rewarded with a Paris Roubaix start for his effort and improvements,” commented Stephens. “He’s had a fantastic start to the year again. Although he was disappointed not to repeat his overall win at Circuit Sarthe, he had a really strong Classics campaign. Luke will come into this Giro with great aspirations to help us through the team time trial and see what he can achieve in the first individual time trial, too. On any given day when we need someone to do extra work, Luke can be that guy.”

Svein Tuft, known for being one of the strongest workhorses in the pro peloton, can sit on the front for hours on end doing tireless work for his teammates. The eight-time Canadian National Time Trial Champion finished eighth in the final time trial at last year’s Giro. Racing in his third Giro, Tuft’s presence will be essential for the team time trial.

“Svein is another rider who is a key component to our team time trial,” stated Stephens. “He will also be counted on to do any general work the team requires. Svein has had a strong start to the season, and it was unfortunate he got sick at the end of Tirreno-Adriatico just as he had fine-tuned some of the best form of his life. Although he’s coming off a longer break due to illness, Svein is certainly coming back strong. Count on Svein to be one of the pillars of our Giro squad.”

Christian Meier will be lining up with the ORICA-GreenEDGE squad in Italy for his second go at the Giro. He’s had an outstanding start to the season both on a personal level and in his role of domestique-extraordinaire   

“It was no surprise Christian put his hand up for the Giro,” noted Stephens. “In Catalunya, Christian won the sprint jerseys. In Pais Vasco, he was an integral part of our two stage wins. In the Ardennes, he looked after Simon Gerrans. He loves working for his teammates – no matter where that help may be needed. He’s really stepped it up this year, and his commitment to the team is something any young rider on our team should note and strive to emulate.”

Jens Keukeleire has stepped up quickly to fill many roles. He made his Grand Tour debut with ORICA-GreenEDGE at the Giro in 2012. He has demonstrated his potential as a strong all-rounder and has a depth of untapped strength. Stephens recognizes Keukeleire's capacity to do a variety of things and knows this Giro will help bring out the best in his young Belgian rider.

“Jens is a funny sort of rider in a positive sense because he’s hard to categorise,” said Stephens. “Is he a sprinter? Is he a worker? Is he an opportunist? When it’s required of him, he’s able to fit into any of those roles. He can work for Gossy or get in a break. He’s looking forward to going down the road and contesting the finish with a group of 20 or 30 riders. We expect Jens to get a lot out of the Giro this year and to build on the experience he gains in years to come.”

Pieter Weening comes to the Giro this year for the third time. He brings tremendous experience and strength to the team. Most notably, he has won a stage in both the Giro and the Tour de France. After his stage win in Italy in 2011, Weening went on to wear the coveted maglia rosa for four days.

“Pieter has had a slower build to this season, but once he got going, he got going really well,” noted Stephens. “He played an important part of our two wins at Pais Vasco. Not only was he able to help his teammates win, but he pulled off a sixth place overall himself. From there he went on to ride well at all three Ardennes Classics. At the Giro, Weening will be looking forward to the hillier stages. When the road picks up, not the high mountains but the more undulating medium mountain days, we’ll expect to see Pieter. When the going gets tough, the tough get going - that’s what Pieter lines up for.”

Leigh Howard is used to working for other riders, although he is a talented sprinter in his own right. In Italy, Howard will make his second Grand Tour appearance. Having watched Howard's progression this year, Stephens' has tapped the young rider to fill the sprinter’s role if Gossy is having an off day.

“Leigh sprints well, and he’s also been working well for other riders,” Stephens said. “He was instrumental in helping Aidis take the stage two win in Turkey. We think he’ll be good in the lead out train with Lancaster and the rest for Gossy. He’ll also function as our back-up sprinter. Leigh’s been ticking off quite a few boxes this year, and I think this will be another step forward for Leigh.”

Noticeably absent from the Giro roster this year is Daryl Impey. One of Goss’ strongest lead out men, Impey will be home with his wife to welcome their new baby. It's obviously exciting time for the Impey family, and Stephens sees this as a win-win for everyone.

“Daryl has been an important rider in our sprint train, and it’s easy for us to depend on good workers,” said Stephens. “We’re all eager to welcome his little one into the GreenEDGE family. We’d like Daryl to spend time at home, as would he, when his baby arrives, and in giving him that time, it forces us to find someone to step up to fill his role.”

“This is a good thing for us,” added Stephens. “If Daryl isn’t around or he isn’t feeling great on a certain day or he’s out with an injury, we need to build up a little camp of guys that can do similar work to what Daryl can do. Instead of looking to the always reliable Daryl Impey, other guys get a tap on the shoulder to step up.”

ORICA-GreenEDGE for Giro d'Italia:

Brett Lancaster
Christian Meier
Jens Keukeleire
Jens Mouris
Leigh Howard
Luke Durbridge
Matt Goss
Pieter Weening
Svein Tuft