Rewarding Giro d'Italia Comes to a Close

Sun 1 Jun 2014

Luka Mezgec (Giant Shimano) won the final stage of the Giro d’Italia. The Slovenian beat Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin Sharp) in the finale in Trieste. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) pumped his first in the air as he rolled across the finish line, celebrating his overall victory.

Svein Tuft animated the early action. The Canadian, still carrying injuries from a crash in the first week, attacked to form a two man escape group with Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin). The duo were unable to stretch their advantage beyond the two minute mark, and in the second hour of racing, they were back in the bunch.

Not content to ride in the peloton all the way to the finish, Tuft attacked again on the finishing circuit. This time Lars Bak (Lotto Belisol) provided the company. A trio of riders broke away from the peloton over the circuit climb and bridged across to Tuft and Bak, briefly creating a five rider escape group. Twelve kilometres from the finish, the race was back together.

With his teammate returned to the peloton, Michael Hepburn made his way to the front, putting himself in prime position to launch an attack. The peloton was quick to respond when Hepburn accelerated. Several small attacks followed, all of which were neutralised, before the bunch began to ready for the field sprint.

“We were just looking to spice things up a bit,” said White. “We only had two options. With only two riders, we wanted to be part of the race. The plan was to put Svein in the break, and if there was an opportunity for Heppy to attack late, that’s what we were going to do.”

“Svein was in a break quite early, and he went away again on the circuit,” White added. “Heppy was ready to pounce after Svein got caught. He jumped on a straight stretch but he couldn’t get enough of an advantage to make an impact.”

Hepburn finished the 21st stage of his first Grand Tour in a small group of riders that came to the finish 1’18 after Mezgec. He slotted into 154th overall, more than five hours down on the overall classification. Tuft sits one placed behind Hepburn on the overall, narrowly missing out the maglia nera distinction claimed by Jetse Bol (Belkin).

“It’s a big achievement by Heppy to finish his first Grand Tour,” said White. “The concentration he normally puts into the track in the early season, he put into the road. I think he already has more than 60 race days. Last year he had 35. He did a full program right up to Paris-Roubaix.”

“The way he finished up his first Grand Tour is a sign of class,” White added. “It’s a great sign of things to come when guys this age can finish off a Grand Tour better than they started. He was an important part of winning the team time trial. He did a lot of work the first week up in Ireland, which he paid for in the middle of the race, but he got better toward the end. That’s the sign of a star. The sky is the limit for Michael Hepburn.”

The spirited racing by Tuft and Hepburn on the final day of the Giro d’Italia puts a punctuation mark on a rewarding three weeks for ORICA-GreenEDGE. The Australian outfit won the opening team time trial in Belfast to put Tuft in the maglia rosa. Michael Matthews took the pink jersey from his teammate following stage two – and would wear it for the next six days. While in the pink jersey, Matthews took an inspiring stage win in Montecassino. Pieter Weening closed out week one with the team’s third stage win in Sestola.

“I spent a fair bit of time following the grupetto thinking about a few things,” said White. “It’s been a dream for us. We came here with clear objectives. We weren’t afraid to tell people what they were, and we achieved more than we planned.”

It wasn’t all sunshine and smiles for the team. Brett Lancaster was the first rider to withdraw, crashing out on stage six with a broken hand. Cameron Meyer fell victim to illness in week one. Matthews broke his coccyx. Luke Durbridge broke his collarbone. Weening, Mitch Docker and Ivan Santaromita withdrew with a virus. In the final four stages, Hepburn and Tuft valiantly battled to Trieste as a two man team.

“It was a contrast of emotions and results,” said White. “I’m very proud of all the boys – even the ones that aren’t here. No one pulled out because they were soft. They pulled out with broken bones or because they were too sick to continue. They are certainly in our hearts today as we wrap up a very gratifying three weeks.”

“We can’t thank our fans enough,” White added. “Whether we’re winning or losing or doing everything we can to battle through, our fans are with us. To support a winning team, that’s easy, but to support a team through thick and thin – that’s what makes a real fan. We’re grateful for the support we were shown throughout the entire three weeks of racing.”