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Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge) celebrates a win
Team time trial major objective for Australian oufit
Orica-GreenEdge have announced a nine-man team for the 97th Giro d'italia with the main objective of winning the opening stage of the Italian grand tour having selected several riders who excel against the clock and are capable of claiming victory in 21.7km team time trial.
The Australian WorldTour team will also chase stage wins, while for Michael Hepburn and Michael Matthews the race is all about developing as riders.
"Our first objective in Italy is to win the team time trial," said Sport Director Matt White. "It will be all hands on deck for the TTT in Ireland. We want to take the maglia rosa and of course hold onto it for as long as possible."
At last year's 100th Tour de France, GreenEdge won the team time trial and White is once again expecting that eight time Canadian national time trial champion Svein Tuft will be key to claiming the win.
"In addition to playing a key role in the TTT, I also consider Svein one of our road captains," said White. "He's experienced, even-keeled and devoted to his teammates. He will be a huge asset to this group throughout the race."
Brett Lancaster, who won the prologue of the 2005 Giro and wore the maglia rosa for one stage, lines up for his seventh Giro and will also be crucial in the team's quest for the first leaders jersey of the 2014 edition. "Aside from his important role in the TTT, Brett will guide the lead-out train in the final kilometres of the sprint stages," said White. "Brett is very familiar with this role and knows exactly how to get the other guys in the right place as the bunch winds up for the sprint."
Two time Australian time trial champion Luke Durbridge returns for the Giro having made his grand tour debut at the race last year and impressed with sixth place on the stage eight time trial. "Like Brett and Svein, Luke will be a key member of our squad for the TTT," said White. "Luke produced a fantastic result in the ITT last year, and I really expect that the time trial on stage 12 will suit his characteristics.
22-year-old Australian time trial champion Michael Hepburn makes his grand tour debut and the team won't be burdening with any unrealistic expectations of success
"This will be Heppy's first Grand Tour," White stated. "It will be a real learning experience for him to get through one of the most beautiful and most challenging races on the calendar. He has had a really solid racing block under his belt this season so far and with that has developed into a more complete road rider."
Adding to the team's time trialling stocks is another former national champion in Cameron Meyer who will be out to chase stage wins at his fourth Giro. "Cam can win a stage," said White. "He is a very versatile rider who we are happy to see in the break on any given day. We have seen this aggressive style in the past with him and I expect to see the same rider that we saw at the Vuelta two years ago.
Former U23 world champion Michael Matthews won two stages at the Vuelta a España last year in what was his grand tour debut. With several wins to his name already this year, Matthews will be challenging the likes of Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) on the flat stages as he looks to gain a spot on the Tour de France team in July.
"Michael will be targeting a lot of the stages in the first two weeks of the race" said White. "He's going to face some stiff competition, but we're confident that he will really benefit from this experience. With the teams support, he's up for the challenge."
The team will also line up with the current national Italian champion Ivan Santaromita who will wear the tri-colour jersey in his third Giro appearance and is looking for a good GC placing.
"Santa is aiming for the best possible general classification result he can produce," said White. "The team has goals beyond the overall, but we will support him as much as we possibly can. We don't expect him to contend for a podium but we are starting out with a top 10 as our goal."
Joining the team is key leadout man Mitch Docker who White is relying on for sprinting success. "Mitch has turned into a very consistent member of the team's lead out train" said White. "And with the parcours the way it is, we'll certainly be relying on him to showcase his talents throughout the Giro."
Having been a protagonist at the Ardennes Classics, including helping teammate Simon Gerrans to Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory, Pieter Weening returns to the Giro with fond memories. The Dutchman wore the maglia rosa for four days and won a stage at the 2011 Giro.
"Weening loves the Giro," said White. "The style of racing in Italy makes it a perfect race for him. He is going really strong right now and will be going full gas from the start. Later in the tour he'll pick and choose stages that suit him. He will definitely be on the hunt for stage wins."
Orica-GreenEdgefor the 2014 Giro d'Italia: Brett Lancaster, Cameron Meyer, Ivan Santaromita, Luke Durbridge, Michael Hepburn, Michael
Matthews, Mitch Docker, Pieter Weening and Svein Tuft.