ORICA-GreenEDGE to tackle first Strade Bianche, Gerrans returns via 'white roads'Tue 3 Mar 2015
An eager ORICA-GreenEDGE, including 2014 Liege-Bastogne-Liege champion Simon Gerrans, will line up in the team’s first appearance at Strade Bianche this weekend.
The race, which translates to ‘the white roads’, is held in Tuscany in Italy and features over 50km of gravel roads making for a unique and coveted early season battle.
Admitting that experience is important in the distinctive race, sport director Neil Stephens and his versatile roster are looking forward to the challenge.
“To a degree we are coming in from the shadows,” Stephens said of the team’s chances.
“We are certainly not favourites. We haven’t got any race experience here so we are going in for a bit of a hit out, but the best way to go for a hit out is to have a go to try to get a result.”
Gerrans will race for the first time since the world championships last year having recovered from an off-season shoulder injury, but Stephens has warned not too expect too much too early from the team’s most reliant deliverer.
“Gerro is working harder than anybody to try and get back in shape again but its still early days for him,” Stephens said.
“He has taken the injury and turned it into a positive, working really hard in the gym to build his strength. He is in good shape, he is really keen to go but it’s a little too early to expect a result from him just yet.”
Gerrans inclusion provides some much-required experience alongside team captain Mathew Hayman who will also play a critical role this weekend.
“Experience is very important in a race like this,” Stephens continued. “You need to know when to move up, when to be in the right place and so on.”
“We are lucky that the most experienced guy in the team also has the most experience in this race, which is Mat Hayman.
“The finish is a little bit hard for Mat, but he will be a very important person coming up to that final part of the race.”
The duo will be joined by fellow cool head, Canadian champion Svein Tuft, former Australian time trial champions Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn, Danish neo pro Magnus Cort and young climbers Esteban Chaves and Adam Yates.
“It’s a hard pressed sand road so should the race be run in the dry it’s really not that much different to a normal tarred road,” Stephens said. “It’s a little bit more slippery but it’s quite compact and quite fast. The troubles really fire up if it is a wet road.”
“There are dirt roads and climbing all throughout the race but certainly after the 100km mark is starts getting a bit harder and then the last 20km it comes down to smaller select groups at the front.
“Traditionally it gets down to groups of five or six or one rider off the front so we’d like to get to late in the race with some numbers, if that is possible, to try and perhaps support one of the young guys like Durbridge, Yates or Chaves.
“If we could make that final selection, that is already a bit of a victory for us.”
ORICA-GreenEDGE at Strade Bianche (Saturday, 7 March 2015):