With the team's number-one sprinter Matt Goss feeling under the weather after multiple days of torrential rain at the Giro d'Italia it has been left up to Orica GreenEdge lead-out man Brett Lancaster to step into the leader's role. The former Giro stage winner and wearer of the maglia rosa took his second top-ten finish in as many days when he sprinted to fourth on Stage 13 into Cherasco.
It's an impressive result for Lancaster given he usually plays a support role in the sprints but has shown in the past that given the opportunity, he can battle with the best. The day's winner Mark Cavendish was pushed all the way to the line to take his 101st career win while Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack Leopard) and Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) finished just ahead of the Australian Lancaster.
According to assistant sports director Julian Dean, the team begun the day with a smaller glimmer of hope that Goss would be up to the task but everyone was given a free pass to try and get into a breakaway. Given the team's ability to ride the front with the likes of Australian road champion Luke Durbridge along with strongmen Jens Mouris and Christian Meier, none of the other sprint teams would allow an Orica GreenEdge rider up the road.
Once a break eventually drifted into the distance, the Australian squad ensured it was never given too much time so that Goss, or in the eventual scenario Lancaster, could be given the best chance of a stage result.
As the stage developed it became clear the former Milan-San Remo winner Goss would not be taking part in the finale and so the team rallied around Lancaster until the final kilometres.
"We weren’t sure what to expect from Gossy, and if he was feeling good, we definitely wanted to give him a shot," explained Dean on the team site. "It didn’t work out for him today, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t going to try to ride as if we can win it."
Lancaster found himself boxed-in with 600m remaining and while not in the ideal spot to launch his sprint, still managed to pick his way toward the front and to an otherwise solid fourth-place behind some notable fast-men.
"In the last kilometre, Pieter [Weening] and Jens [Keukeleire] did a good job bringing Brett into position," added Dean. "Brett said he got boxed in, but he pulled his way out with 600 metres to go and came around the long way to take fourth. It’s another good ride for Brett, and it’s a bit of a consolation for guys like Jens Mouris, Christian and Durbo who did awesome work on the front."
A weekend of mountain stages is unlikely to suit the Australian team and they will instead look to take action and opportunities in a number of stages next week.