Matthews to make grand tour debut
Orica GreenEdge will head to the final grand tour of the year looking once again to stage victories and according to sports director Neil Stephens the team is hoping to match the feats of Simon Clarke in 2012, who won a stage en route to taking the king of the mountain classification.
Several members of the team including Clarke and Simon Gerrans, will be using the Vuelta a España as their final preparation for the UCI Road World Championships late next month.
"The World Championships circuit is a very difficult one, and we tend to think the preparation for Worlds will come out of the Vuelta," explained Stephens. "The riders have spoken to the national team selectors, and they've put their hand up to race with us in Spain to help them get ready for Worlds."
According to Stephens, Gerrans, who won the 10th stage of the Vuelta in 2009, is well-placed following the Tour de France where he won a stage and wore the yellow jersey for two days. Gerrans rode the Clasica San Sebastian in late July and is now doing a training block at altitude in preparation for the Vuelta.
In-form all-rounder Michael Matthews will make his grand tour debut, having had to pull out of the Giro d'Italia earlier this season due to illness. Matthews form netted him two stage wins at the Tour of Utah and the former under 23 world champion spearheads the sprint line-up for the team which also includes Leigh Howard. Baden Cooke and Mitch Docker will be on lead-out duty.
"Michael has been a very exciting young rider to work with this year," said Stephens. "He's shone throughout this season, and the wins in Utah should give him a big confidence boost. The way he was able to handle some of the hillier terrain opens up additional possibilities for him at the Vuelta."
"Michael and Leigh approach the sprints differently, so it's great that we're bringing riders that can cover all sorts of sprint scenarios," added Stephens. "We have a team to support them both."
Supporting Matthews as he did in Utah will be Sam Bewley who is also making his grand tour debut. It is hoped that at least a two-week effort from the New Zealander will result in solid form for the GreenEdge squad that will take on the Team Time Trial at the worlds.
The team is rounded out by Christian Meier, racing his second grand tour of the season after the Giro, and Wes Sulzberger, both of whom will provide an essential support role for Gerrans and Clarke.
Orica GreenEdge for the 2013 Vuelta a España: Sam Bewley, Baden Cooke, Simon Clarke, Mitch Docker, Simon Gerrans, Leigh Howard, Michael Matthews, Christian Meier, Wes Sulzberger.
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