After winning the Giro d’Italia team time trial Orica GreenEdge could embark on an extended stay in the maglia rosa. And just like in 2014 when they won the race’s stage one team time trial in Belfast, Michael Matthews looks like the most likely beneficiary.
Sunday’s flattish stage, 177 kilometres from Abenga to Genova, with just one fourth category climb, is widely expected to end in a bunch sprint. Last year, even though Matthews did not win the second stage starting and finishing Belfast he took over the lead from his teammate Svein Tuft and then held it for six days. He also rounded off his Giro with an impressive uphill stage victory at Monte Cassino.
This time around Orica GreenEdge’s closest rivals on GC are Tinkoff-Saxo and they are probably willing to let the Australians handle the pressure of holding the lead in the first week. So even if Matthews would have sprinters and fast finishers of the calbre of André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick Step) to contend with for the stage, he is in pole position for pink.
“Losing Svein was a big loss, he’s been our best team time trial rider, and to still be able to win - it’s a big one today,” Matt White told Cyclingnews.
“Now we go on the hunt for stages and the best case scenario is to keep the pink jersey as far as Abetone [on stage five].”
“We’ve got a sprint tomorrow [Sunday], and the next few stages, into Sestri Levante [on stage three] and La Spezia [on stage four], they do suit us.” However, he warned, “They’re going to be very hard stages to control.”
Gerrans himself has added that “with tomorrow [Sunday] almost certain to be a sprint, [Michael] Matthews is our best option there, whilst with Peter Weening” - himself a former Giro leader - “and Esteban Chaves we have other options for the hillier stages. Our overall goal though is to keep the jersey for at least the next few days.”