Goss chasing third Giro stage victory
The sprint train of Matt Goss has received an added boost with Leigh Howard joining his compatriot in the Orica GreenEdge line-up for the Giro d'Italia.
Goss claimed the team's maiden grand tour stage victory in Horsens in 2012 when the Giro was raced through Denmark. The 26-year-old was in action at the Tour of Romandie last week where he finished seventh on Stage 1 won by Lotto Belisol's Gianni Meersman. Last month, he scored his first victory of the season at Tirreno - Adriatico.
Howard provides an extra sprint option for Orica GreenEdge, with the 23-year-old racing just his second grand tour, having made his debut at the Vuelta a Espana in 2011 with HTC - HighRoad. Howard had been expecting to ride the Tour of California off the back of the Tour of Turkey and earlier this season, nabbed a podium at the Tour of San Luis, followed by two race wins in Mallorca, and then another podium at Paris-Nice.
"He was instrumental in helping Aidis [Kruopis] take the stage two win in Turkey," said sports director Neil Stephens. "We think he'll be good in the lead out train with Lancaster and the rest for Gossy. He'll also function as our back-up sprinter. Leigh's been ticking off quite a few boxes this year, and I think this will be another step forward for Leigh."
With Daryl Impey unavailable due to the impending birth of his child, Brett Lancaster continues to provide key lead-out support for Goss in the sprint stages, but will find extra power in the form of Jens Mouris who should also prove handy in the team time trial.
As expected, Luke Durbridge will make his grand tour debut at the Giro with the current Australian time trial and road champion telling Cyclingnews earlier in the season that he would be "playing it by ear" as to whether he will ride the entire three weeks. Another strong time triallist in the squad is Svein Tuft who made his return to racing at Romandie after illness.
Dutchman Pieter Weening heads into the Giro on form after an impressive Ardennes campaign and in 2011, wore the maglia rosa for four days.
"If I can win one stage I would be happy with that," he told Cyclingnews last week. "I'm not trying to do GC, just a stage."
Back for a second time at the Giro will be Christian Meier and Jens Keukeleire with the latter a solid performer over the spring classics and earmarked as the team's darkhorse.
"He can work for Gossy or get in a break," said Stephens. "He's looking forward to going down the road and contesting the finish with a group of 20 or 30 riders. We expect Jens to get a lot out of the Giro this year and to build on the experience he gains in years to come."
Missing from the squad is Michael Matthews who had been expected to make his grand tour debut. Matthews fell ill just prior to the Tour of Romandie.
Orica GreenEdge for the Giro d'Italia: Luke Durbridge, Matt Goss, Leigh Howard, Jens Keukeleire, Brett Lancaster, Christian Meier, Jens Mouris, Svein Tuft and Pieter Weening.
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