ORICA-GreenEDGE Targets Stage Wins at Tour of Utah

Mon 5 Aug 2013

ORICA-GreenEDGE will chase stage wins over six days of high altitude racing at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. Billed as ‘America’s Toughest Stage Race’, the six day American tour covers 943 kilometres and a lung-busting 13,000 metres of climbing. The peloton will take in some of the state’s most beautiful terrain as it races through national parks and urban corridors and tackles the epic peaks of the Wasatch Range. 

“As is normal, we have no one racing for the overall,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “Wesley Sulzberger and Michael Matthews are our main guys for stages. Damien Howson joins us as a stagiaire, and he has free rein to have a crack at any of the stages for the climbers. There’s no expectations for him, but if he can get up there and do something, that would be fantastic.”

“This is a climbing-oriented race, and we don’t have a climbing team,” added road captain Baden Cooke. “That said, if any stage comes to a sprint, I expect us to dominate it. A stage win here would make this a successful week.”

Matthews notched a stage win last year in Salt Lake City. He spent the majority of stage three in a break and after being swept up by his chasers, he won the field sprint from a reduced bunch. Wilson hopes he can repeat the feat.

“Michael is our key guy for the sprints,” noted Wilson. “There are one or two stages that could be good for him. The stage four Salt Lake City circuit race is the only absolute clear day for a sprint. Stage three may be another possibility, but it depends on how it’s raced. The stage in Salt Lake City is more of a target.”

Sulzberger and Howson provide less obvious options for stage wins. Each has shown strong form in races over the last two months and could look to win out of a breakaway or a reduced bunch.

“Wesley has had some really good form this season,” said Wilson. “He’s been right up there in the mix for the win in his last couple of races. We’ll look to him to chase some stages, too.”

“Howson is a bit of a wildcard in the mountains,” Wilson continued. “He’s probably the strongest climber we’ve brought to Utah. The rest of guys can go into breakaways on the stages where we’re not looking to put Matthews up for the sprint.”

Without race radios, Cooke’s role as road captain becomes crucial to the team’s strategy. He recognises the team’s ability to make an impact on the race and knows they must ride as a cohesive unit to fulfill their potential.

“As Matty said, we have some guys that are going really well at the moment,” said Cooke. “None of that matters unless everyone is on the same page and working together. That’s where my role comes into play. Everyone knows what they need to do without me, but it’s always good to have someone directing and reminding to make sure we’re on the same page.”

“My role involves gathering the guys together, reminding them of the crucial points in each stage and essentially pointing out the stuff they already know,” Cooke continued. “We need to keep our leader out of the wind. We don’t just ride one over there and one over there. We ride together. If someone stops for a leak, another guys stops with him to save a bit of energy. With Damien, it’s telling him and showing him how we did it.”

Wilson raced Tour of Utah with Team Type 1 five years ago. Now back as a Sport Director, he’s discussed the challenges that lie ahead with his young squad.

“I’ve warned the guys what it will be like, and this edition looks even harder than other years,” said Wilson. “There’s so much climbing at mega altitude. The year that I raced, nine of the top ten lived at altitude. I expect this year to be the same – the winner is likely to be someone that lives at altitude.”

"Beyond stage wins, the main objective for the week is to get in good training at some super high altitude," Wilson continued. "The entire team has spent time at altitude before this race - all at least two weeks; several of them even longer. I'm hoping the guys will adapt well and get a lot out of the week because of this." 

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ORICA-GreenEDGE for Tour of Utah:

Baden Cooke
Damien Howson
Michael Hepburn
Michael Matthews
Sam Bewley
Tomas Vaitkus
Wesley Sulzberger