|Following their success at the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships where Luke Durbridge and Cameron Meyer swept all before them, taking the road race, time trial and criterium between them, ORICA-GreenEDGE have finalized their seven rider Tour Down Under team for their local WorldTour race. Matt Goss will represent the team’s interests in the sprints whilst the defending champion Simon Gerrans has unsurprisingly been announced team leader for the General Classification. Daryl Impey, Jens Mouris, Simon Clarke and Stuart O’Grady will support Goss and Gerrans alongside Luke Durbridge, who will be resplendent in his newly acquired Australian National Road Race champion’s jersey.
Gerrans is the reigning champion, having won last year’s 14th edition of the Santos-sponsored event by virtue of better stage placings throughout the race, as he and Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde could not be split on time differences. “Gerrans has free reign to have a crack at the overall,” confirmed ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Directeur Sportif Matt Wilson. Despite lining Gerrans up for a tilt at retaining the ochre jersey, Wilson concedes that overall victory is a lesser goal for the team this year as they look to build on their first season by truly establishing themselves amongst the world cycling elite, “last year, winning the Tour Down Under felt essential, (but) wins at the Tour Down Under are now one of many goals for our second season.”
It is anticipated that Vuelta a Espana king of the mountains winner Simon Clarke will prove a strong ally for Gerrans in the ‘middle mountain’ classified stages, none more so than at Old Willunga Hill, where Gerrans hung on to the coat tails of Valverde in 2012 to keep victory in his sights. “Simon (Clarke) also has really good form right now and will be a very important rider for the hillier stages,” explained Wilson, “we know he can climb with the best and if those stages become crucial for the overall, we want to have someone next to Gerrans.”
In a race that has typically catered for fast finishers, with recognized specialist sprinters Allan Davis and Andre Greipel amongst the previous winners of the Tour Down Under, 2013 is little different in the respect that 3 of the 6 stages are expected to come down to a bunch sprint. Goss is ORICA-GreenEDGE’s most obvious option to open the season with a WorldTour stage win, although a stellar sprint cast has been assembled once again, with Edvald Boasson Hagen and Greipel being Goss’ chief rivals. “On the days where it’s a sprinter’s race, Gossy will be there,” said Wilson. “He’s a past stage winner at the Tour Down Under and has finished high up on the overall classification in previous years. He’s our man for the sprints. We’re hoping to pick up a stage win.”
The Australian team’s lead-out is expected to be amongst the best at the race, as in Durbridge they possess a rouleur in great form, whilst road captain O’Grady, a former two-time winner of the Tour Down Under, is a veteran at negotiating bunch gallops. Daryl Impey will also act as a key figure in Goss’ sprint train, with the South African expected to land the role of Goss’ ‘poisson pilote’ or lead-out man after the duo worked well together at last year’s Tour de France.
Durbridge has demonstrated his incredible early season form with three wins already. His aggressive, repeated attacks on the second day of racing at the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic netted him a win in Portarlington, whilst the following week he made a successful defence of his national time trial title in Ballarat before claiming the national road title in Buninyong. “He’s clearly on super form at the moment,” Wilson said. “Like Jens (Mouris), Durbridge can help both in the sprints and over hillier terrain.”
Last year Wilson was on the bike in Adelaide, but this year he’s behind the wheel. “This is really exciting for me,” he said. “I’ve done this race 12 times as a rider. I know the stages inside out. To come here as a director will be a completely different experience, and I’m looking forward to the new challenge.” In his first WorldTour directing role, Wilson is eager to set realistic expectations. “There’s obviously a lot of attention around the team at the Tour Down Under. There aren’t that many chances during the year for the Australian fans to see us, talk to riders and cheer for us roadside. Everyone likes a hometown win. It’s up to us to do what we will with that pressure. We’ll attack the obvious sprint stages for Goss and support Simon (Gerrans) in Stirling and Willunga. We’re all looking forward to a great race.”
ORICA-GreenEDGE roster for the Santos Tour Down Under
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