Orica-GreenEdge line up at Paris-Nice with the dual ambitions of supporting Michael Matthews for stage wins and Simon Yates for a high general classification finish. The Australian team has tastested success at the Race to the Sun on one previous occasion, stage four in 2013 via Michael Albasini who has also been selected for the race.
Matthews will make his 2015 debut at Paris-Nice, his first race since the world championships when he finished 14th. Last year Matthews won stages at the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana, also wearing the leader's jerseys of both grand tours, although missed the Tour de France due to injuries from a crash sustained on the eve of the race. This season Matthews' objectives are Milan-San Remo, a debut Tour appearance and the world championships in Richmond and Greenedge's sport director for the race Lorenzo Lapage acknowledged that Paris-Nice will be important stepping stone for those goals.
"When you look at the race, we don't have the fastest guy on those flat stage so we don't have to take responsibility early in the race to control," Lapage said. "It will be more important in the first three days for guys like Bling [Matthews] to get back into the racing environment again."
Lapage added that several riders will therefore be free to pursue their own opportunities via breakaways in the second-half of the eight-stage race with the opening few days possibly suiting Matthews.
"Stages five and six are stages that can suit us," Lapage said. "Albasini, Simon Clarke and Jens Keukeleire, those guys will be free to go in the breakaway and if it comes together we will go for Bling.
"Those stages will suit us more to go to for the win because in my opinion the first three days will be a bunch sprint."
Second year professional Yates will also receive support from the team for a tilt at the overall with the hilly parcours suited to the 21-year-old.
"There is one thing for sure and that is our leader for the overall will be Simon Yates," Lapage said. "All of the team will help Simon to start the climb in a perfect position on stage four. If we can have Clarkey stay around him as long as possible it will be perfect and then, of course as a mountain top finish, once he is in a good position to start the climb it is up to him to show how the legs are."
While the races returns to the familiar format of finishing with a time trial up the Col d'Éze, Lapage anticipates that stage four climb to Croix de Chaubouret and the hilly stage six will be more decisive for the GC than the 9.5km test against the clock.
"The stage four mountain top will already show the guys who are climbing the best so the overall will be all but set," Lapage added. "I can’t see they are going to lose so much time because again they need to climb in the last day also."
Orica-GreenEdge for Paris-Nice: Michael Albasini, Simon Clarke, Mitch Docker, Daryl Impey, Jens Keukeleire, Michael Matthews, Christian Meier and Simon Yates.