ORICA-GreenEDGE open the European Campaign with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.Tue 23 Feb 2016
After an absence of three years from the opening races of the Belgian classics, ORICA-GreenEDGE arrive in Europe with a young team full of confidence on the back of a successful start to the 2016 season in Australia.
The first editions of these races go back to 1945 and are steeped in history. Sitting alongside the Tour of Flanders as cornerstones of the North European Spring classics season.
This weekend will be the first competitive outing for some of the riders in the team and after an intensive period of training at altitude in South Africa there will not be a huge amount of pressure placed on the team.
“Of course we have a plan going into the races,” explained sports director Laurenzo Lapage. “We have trained very well and will arrive at the start completely prepared.”
“Het Nieuwsblad is a totally different race to Kuurne, we will have two protected riders with Jens Keukeleire and Mathew Hayman. Sam Bewley, Mitch Docker and Alex Edmondson will be riding for the two leaders.”
Danish time trial champion Chris Juul Jensen will have a free role, together with fellow Dane Magnus Cort and former Australian road race champion Luke Durbridge, giving the team a good balance and options to exploit.
“As usual we will be hoping that the weather is not too bad,” continued Lapage.
“Coming directly from the South African climate to Northern Europe can be a bit of a shock. However, the most important thing for us is that we carry the good feeling within the team into these races. It would be great to get a result, we will see.”
Last year’s race was won by Ian Stannard (Team Sky) and takes place this year on Saturday 27th of February.
Then on Sunday 28th of February is the 71st edition of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and in form Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan will be making his debut in the race which was won by Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) in 2015.
“For Kuurne we will start with the same idea as with Het Nieuwsblad but with Ewan coming into the team,” said Lapage. “For sure he will have a protected role after doing so well for us already this year.”
“As a young rider it’s important that he gains some experience in these kind of races, without any additional pressure.”
Historically it’s a race for the fast men, although the northern cobbled classics always retain an air of unpredictability. The team will be hoping for a smooth transition into the start of the European season.
ORICA-GreenEDGE at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad/Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (27-28 Feb):
Sam Bewley (NZ, 28)
Magnus Cort (DEN, 23)
Mitch Docker (AUS, VIC, 29)
Luke Durbridge (AUS, WA, 24)
Alex Edmondson (AUS, SA, 22)
Caleb Ewan (AUS, NSW, 21) – Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne only.
Mathew Hayman (AUS, NSW, 37)
Chris Juul Jensen (DEN, 26)
Jens Keukeleire (BEL, 27)
* Rider omission for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne will be confirmed after Het Nieuwsblad.