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Sports Director Neil Stephens Previews the Vuelta a España

Sat 18 Aug 2012

Hi everyone,

Earlier this week, I introduced you to our Vuelta a España roster. Today, our team was presented to the fans and press in Pamplona. This is our third and final Grand Tour of our maiden season, and we’re eager to make our mark in Spain.

There are resources that offer detailed race previews - this preview is different. Below, I explain how I imagine our team will handle the race stage-by-stage. 

Stage 1: Pamplona – Pamplona (TTT)

While we have already won two WorldTour team time trials this season, most of the riders we have selected for the Vuelta have not been part of those wins. We’ve prioritized other goals for this race. Our guys will do their best here, and I imagine we’ll finish around mid-field. Anything more would be a highly successful day for us.

Stage 2: Pamplona – Viana

Hot weather is in the forecast for the few days of the Vuelta, and traveling into Viana opens up the possibility for winds to factor into race action. If all goes well, we’ll have Allan Davis look for a result in the first sprint finish, which is slightly uphill. In saying that, the first road stage of a Grand Tour is often a very crazy day. We’re prepared to keep our options open and see how this stage unfolds.

Stage 3: Faustino V – Eibar (Arrate)
Stage 4: Barakaldo – Estación de Valdezcaray

Arrate and Valdezcaray are both difficult days. They may come a bit too early in the race for someone like Pieter Weening. He took a break after the Tour de France, and while he has trained specifically for the Vuelta, he may require a few days to ride himself into stage win contention. Daniel Teklehaimanot is our second plausible option on a stage likes this although he, like Pieter, may need a few days of racing in his legs before he can be up there. We’ll happily support either of them if they feel capable of looking for a result.

Regardless, some of our guys will support Cameron Meyer, who is looking to do a solid general classification ride at the Vuelta. The rest of the team will quietly stay in the bunch and look to be amongst the action in later stages.

Stage 5: Logroño – Logroño
Stage 6: Tarazona – Jaca
Stage 7: Huesca – Alcañiz Motorland Aragón 

The next three days of racing are all sprint stages, with stage six open to some really hard attacking heading into the finish. Each of these stages suits the strengths of our team. We’ll have multiple options, and we’re open to giving everybody a chance. Whoever raises their hand and asks for support or puts themselves into the right move will have an opportunity on these days. 

Stage 8: Lleida – Andorra. Collada de la Gallina

Stage eight will be a hard day of racing into Andorra with an extremely difficult mountaintop finish. A lot of time can be lost on a stage like this. The main goal today will be to look after Cameron and ensure he remains as close as possible to the top riders on the general classification.

Stage 9: Andorra – Barcelona

A fast day of racing begins as soon as we leave Andorra and go down the valley. I expect another aggressive stage. The peloton will be tired at this point, and there’s a good chance racing will be complicated by fatigue and the impending transfer. The technical stage concludes in Barcelona with a third category climb just before the finish. Any team would be happy to get a result ahead of the first rest day.

Stage 10: Ponteareas – Sanxenxo

We’re back to racing after the first rest day. Riders react differently to the rest day. For some, it would have been easier to keep racing than to stop to recover. We’ll work with our staff – our doctors and physios – to get through the transfer and rest day in the best possible condition to be ready to race hard today. A sprint is the most likely scenario in Sanxenxo although a breakaway is certainly also possible.

Stage 11: Cambados – Pontevedra

This is the only individual time trial of the Vuelta. Lacking a time trial specialist, I suspect that Cam will be our only rider to race this stage full gas. He’ll be looking to take back some time with a decent ride here. The rest of our team will conserve their energy. For eight of our nine riders, it will be matter of getting through the stage as easily as possible with the next few days of racing in mind. That said, things might change as the race unfolds, and maybe we’ll have one or two other riders in a position where they’ll want to ride the time trial more full on.

Stage 12: Vilagarcía de Arousa – Mirador de Ézaro
Stage 13: Santiago de Compostela – Ferrol

These two stages can be grouped together and both suit us.  They each include fairly flat sections ahead of short, steep ramps to the finish, with the stage 12 climb significantly steeper than the climb that concludes stage 13. The race will have settled a bit by this point, and there may be the option of teams with an interest in stage results taking control of the peloton.

Stage 14: Palas de Rei – Puerto de Ancares
Stage 15: La Robla – Lagos de Covadonga
Stage 16: Gijôn – Valgrande-Pajares. Cuitu Negru

Three hard days in the mountains follow two days for the sprinters. We’ll have a two-pronged approach on each of these days. We’ll look to support Cam on the climbs, and if Pieter or Daniel are feeling strong, they can potentially go for an individual result in the process.

The sprint group will be racing to get through these days however they can. These will be difficult days for our sprinters, and survival before the second rest day is critical.

Stage 17: Santander – Fuente Dé
Stage 18: Aguilar de Campoo – Valladolid
Stage 19: Peñafiel – La Lastrilla

It’s a funny thing when you get to the final week of a Grand Tour. In week two, riders are dreading each stage start. They wonder how they’re going to make it to end of the race. Come week three, the mentality changes. Suddenly, it’s like ‘Only five days left?! How is that possible?” The fatigue level will be high, so that’s definitely a factor – but sometimes the highest level of racing happens this week because teams without a result will be desperate for a win. We’ll concentrate on these stages and be ready to give it our all in week three.

Stage 20: La Faisanera Golf. – Bola del Mundo

This is an extremely hard penultimate stage up to Bola del Mundo. I expect to see a toe-to-toe battle between contenders for the overall win. It’s foolish to surmise how our riders will feel at this point. Hopefully Cam will still be around the mark, and Pieter and Daniel will have the ability to support him.

Stage 21: Cercedilla - Madrid

The final day of the Vuelta is a little bit like the final day of the Tour de France. The race will end with a sprint finish in Madrid, and we’ll hopefully be ready to celebrate a successful race for ORICA-GreenEDGE at the Vuelta a España.

This Vuelta offers something for everyone on our team. With a focus on both results and rider development, we look forward to an exciting three weeks for everyone involved.

Videographer Dan Jones is back with daily Backstage Pass videos during the first 10 days of the race. Keep an eye out for them, and get ready for another Twitter contest.

Enjoy!

Neil Stephens
Sports Director

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