The planned evolution of the Orica-GreenEdge team into one that can support a potential Grand Tour winner will focus on developing already rostered trio of Esteban Chaves and the Yates twins – Adam and Simon – rather than from recruiting outside.
Orica-GreenEdge head sports director Matt White told Cyclingnews during Monday’s second rest day of the Giro d’Italia at Madonna di Campiglio that the Australian WorldTour team is committed to that pathway based on those three riders’ successes with the team so far – and their outward long-term career ambitions.
“Twelve months ago we didn’t know how good they were going to become and we still don’t – they are 22 [the Yates twins] and 25 [Chaves] years of age,” White said. “Where are they going to be in 12 months time? We will find out what happens this year in July with the Yates’ and Esteban here at the Giro and at the Vuelta.
“They still have a lot of room for development.
“A lot of people want to be Tour de France ‘GC’ guys, but it might take a couple of years to work out if that might even be possible.
“Esteban and the Yates brothers are super ambitious young men, which is great to work with.”
The British Yates twins have already been told that they will both race this year’s Tour de France with a view to testing themselves in the race for overall classification.
Simon Yates impressed in last year’s Tour, even though he was pulled in latter stages, much to his disappointment – a response that White was privately impressed by.
Adam Yates rode the Vuelta a España and also impressed en route to finishing it.
Chaves, meanwhile, made his grand debut at last year’s Vuelta and tried to race for overall classification as long as possible and lasted two weeks before fading to the finish.
Chaves’ big opportunity arrives on stage 16
For the Colombian, this year’s Giro is the next major learning curve. He did not start with the goal of vying for a top overall place, but to try and win a mountain stage.
And the first of several opportunities in the high mountains is Tuesday’s 174km stage 16 from Pinzolo to Aprica that includes five categorised climbs – with the first, the second category Campo Carlo Magno, coming straight after the start, and the last being the third category finish to Aprica. In between the three climbs are the second category Passo del Tonale, a first ascent to Aprica and the first category climb of the Mortirolo.
White said that stage 16 was a prime opportunity for Chaves, as long as the two teams that are controlling the race – Tinkoff-Saxo (for Alberto Contador) and Astana (for Fabio Aru) – allow some freedom for a break to get away and fight for the stage.
“Well, we have been saying it for days … surely they will let a break go. The elastic band has to break some time,” White said. “The two teams that are controlling the race are Astana and Tinkoff, or [they are] controlling what is arriving at the finish, especially on these mountain stages.”
White is happy with how Chaves is tracking in his Grand Tour development at the Giro though. “Like all champions he wants more and he is chasing more,” White said. “He would like to be at a little higher level here but you also have to take into context where he has come from.
“It is his second Grand Tour. He is 24 years old. He is learning about himself and he is learning how he reacts in these three week stage races.
“It was always going to be preparation for the second part of the season, which doesn’t mean we are not going for stage wins here. He is still on the hunt for a stage win.”
Colombian not afraid to declare his intent
Chaves is not shy of declaring his eagerness to try his hand this week, as tired as he is. “I am very tired after 15 days very hard. I am really tired,” Chaves told Cyclingnews.
While he was thrilled to have ridden for Orica-GreenEdge in the winning team time trial line-up on stage 1, Chaves wants to leave his mark in the mountains this week.
“Normally on paper, I am a Colombian… and this is the climbers’ week,” he said. However, he realises that to have any chance at this time of his carder, he must get in an early breakaway rather than try and take on the likes of Contador or Aru.
“It is better to stay in the breakaway and try for one stage. If it is not possible [to get away] … okay we will try the next day,” Chaves said.
What Chaves has in plan, not even he really knows yet for the reason he does not study the next stage until that morning – no matter if the race is in the mountains or not.
“I like to study the course day by day,” he said. “I have my [race] book in the bus, not in the room. I don’t know what is the next stage … so I will look tomorrow.
“I wake up, go to the bus, look at my book and go ‘Ah … a climber’s stage’ or ‘A sprinter’s stage.’”
Rupert Guinness is a sports writer for The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media)