Australian building for spring classics assault
With two wins in three days at Challenge Mallorca, Leigh Howard’s second year with Orica GreenEdge is looking extremely promising. Heading into the season, Howard outlined he would simply try to win as many races as possible in 2013 and he’s off to a cracking start. Taking to the top step of the podium at two out of the four Mallorca races - Trofeo Migjorn and Platja de Muro - should provide him with plenty of confidence heading into the spring classics.
Howard’s second victory at Trofeo Platja de Muro was once again the result of a perfectly delivered race plan. The team wanted a rider in the breakaway and with Michael Matthews making the initial selection, the team could save their energy until later in the 169.8km race.
"We really wanted a rider in the early break," said sports director Neil Stephens. "This took the pressure off us and also gave us an extra rider up the road ahead of the finish."
With Matthews wrapping up the KOM prize and eventually caught by the chasing peloton, the team went to work to set up the sprint. Howard was missing his lead-out man Mitch Docker from Trofeo Migjorn but the classics specialist Sebastian Langeveld was more than capable of taking up the role.
"It is always great to win but we managed to win the King of the Mountains jerseys here as well," said Stephens. "We are not normally thought of as a team of climbers so that makes it even better."
The team is undoubtedly bearing the fruits of a busy January which for Howard at least, started on New Year’s Day with the ‘Bay Crits’ before racing the Australian National Championships and more recently, the Tour de San Luis. With two wins achieved in Spain, Howard will now turn his attention to continuing his winning run at his first spring classic of the season in Belgium at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
"A massive thanks to all the boys for supporting me the entire race, without them it’s not possible," said Howard. "Thanks to Stevo [Stephens] for having faith in me again."
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