With the full route of the Tour de France published last week teams and riders have had a chance to fully digest the parcours for 2014. While riders and their managers begin to decide their racing schedules, weighing up the prospects and enticements on offer at both the Giro and the Tour, Orica GreenEdge's Matt White is already certain that he will send an aggressive and attacking team to the Tour’s Grand Depart in Yorkshire.
“We’ve not seen all the profiles for the medium mountain stages and they’re probably the key stages for us,” team director Matt White told Cyclingnews.
“Realistically we don’t have anyone for the overall classification so we’ll be targeting stages. We’re a little bit behind in terms of the sprinting but we’ll be targeting medium mountain stages.”
Orica GreenEdge enjoyed a purple patch of form during the opening week of the Tour this year. Their team bus made all the headlines on the first stage when it became lodged under the finish line banner in Corsica but the team made the headlines for all the right reasons on stage 3 with Simon Gerrans winning the team’s first ever Tour stage.
When the race reached mainland France the next day the team continued where they left off in Corsica, wining the team time trial. The yellow jersey changed hands two days later with Daryl Impey becoming the first ever African to pull on the coveted maillot jaune.
White has already studied the opening stages of the 2014 route and believes that the second and third stages once again suit his team. However the lack of a team time trial disappoints the Australian.
“Stage 1 will be a sprint but we’ll have options for the next two stages. Like in 2012, we’ll be putting an emphasis on the start of the Tour. It’s a shame there’s no team time trial, though. Obviously we’re one of the best in the world at that but it’s also a world championship event now and it’s a great discipline that should be included in every Grand Tour. You can chop and change the format in terms of distance and profile but as long as they’re around the thirty kilometre range the teams aren’t going to be too far apart. But overall it’s a good route.”
At the route presentation in Paris the leading GC contenders were quizzed repeatedly about stage 5 which takes in several stretches of cobbles used in Paris-Roubaix. The race last visited such terrain in 2010 with Frank Schleck famously crashing out and Lance Armstrong losing significant time on his rivals. Although White admits his team lacks an out-and-out rider for the overall he has questioned whether one of the main pre-race favourites should look elsewhere for Grand Tour success.
“I’d hate to see guys lose the Tour de France on a stage like that. I’ll be really interested to see some of the rosters. For example, if I was looking after Nairo Quintana I wouldn’t send him to the Tour, I’d send him to the Giro d’Italia. If he goes to the Giro he will win the Giro and he won't have too much competition with a route like that. At the Tour, the hard thing for Quintana will be getting through that first week. If he can do that then he’s on his way to the podium because the climbing towards the end of the Tour certainly suits him.”
With Gerrans and Impey likely to feature in Orica GreenEdge’s Tour team once again White will have the difficult job of selecting the rest of his nine-man line up. Matt Goss is likely to skip the Giro next year and concentrate on the Tour while White sends two of his most experienced climbers to Italy.
“[Pieter] Weening and Ivan Santaromita will be targeting the Giro. Those guys have done enough Grand Tours so that if we then decide to send them to the Tour we’ll be able to transition them into the team but we really want to bring an attacking team to the Tour de France. We want to really capitalise on the stages we can do well in. We’ve got some riders who are developing well but at the moment, when it comes to the high mountain stages, we’re not capable of winning unless it’s a random breakaway.”