Success in a Grand Tour like the Giro d’Italia is not always measured by the results. Pending the role of each rider in their team, the performance of a rider is also determined by the impact a rider has on the race in line with the tactics of their team.
When this year’s Giro set off from Apeldoorn in The Netherlands on May 9, there were 10 Australians in the Giro. By the end of the stage 15, and with one week to go, there are eight still in the race.
Cyclingnews looks at how those Australians have fared in the Giro so far and what awaits those still in the race before its finish in Torino on Sunday.
Damien Howson (Orica-GreenEdge)
After stage 15: 49th overall at 1:18:07
Damien Howson has continued to impress since last year’s Vuelta a Espana in support of Colombian Esteban Chaves, who placed fifth overall. Howson has stepped up to another level this year and has continued to show it in this Giro with his support for Chaves in climbs. With Chaves challenging for the overall win and the Dolomites behind the Giro, Howson has a huge week ahead, especially when the race enters the Alps in north-west Italy for stage 19 from Pinerolo to Risoul on Friday and stage 20 from Guillestre to Sant’Anna di Vinadio.
Simon Clarke (Cannondale)
After stage 15: 74th overall at 2:04:25
As Cannondale’s road captain for the Giro, Simon Clarke has done well to rally his riders to support their overall leader, Colombian Rigoberto Uran and get into the breaks. Clarke, who was also saved in turn from landing in a canal in a mass pile up on stage 11, by Uran grabbing him in time, also started the Giro with a license to seize his own stage opportunities. Such chances could arise on Tuesday’s 16th stage from Bressanone to Andolo on a third category climb, or Friday’s 18th stage from Muggio to Pinerolo that has a descent with 20km to go.
After stage 15: 93rd overall at 2:16:22
Adam Hansen is one week away from finishing his 14th successive Grand Tour to extend his record of back-to-backs. In trademark fashion he worked tirelessly as a member of the Lotto-Soudal sprint train to help the ‘Gorilla’ Andre Greipel win three stages before the German left the Giro after his last victory on stage 12. With Greipel gone, Hansen could get the opportunity to savour a little success himself in the last week. He can deliver when given the chance, as he showed by winning a stage in the 2013 Giro and the 2014 Vuelta a Espana.
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After stage 15: 94th overall at 2:16:50
Rory Sutherland is relishing the task of working for Spanish leader Alejandro Valverde. And he has not lost that focus despite Valverde’s time loss in Saturday’s 14th stage to Corvara in which Sutherland rode like a Trojan at the front of the peloton before the race exploded.
Valverde could still challenge for the podium, but for that he will have to call on every ounce of energy and faith of his teammates. Sutherland’s strong stage 15 time trial (34th at 2:40) after all his work shows he has form to match his intent for the final week.
After stage 15: 105th overall at 2:22:20
Heinrich Haussler made it to the third rest day in plenty of pain due to a saddle sore that arose two days prior. Before then he started to show some spark with his eighth place on stage 12 in which he was to have helped fellow Australian Leigh Howard until the latter lost the wheel in the final metres.
Haussler is still intent on finishing the Giro and would love a stage win, even if his main personal aim is to get a three-week block of racing in his legs as a foundation for his second half of the year, culminating with the World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
After stage 15: 112th overall at 2:28:15
Jay McCarthy put his prowess in medium hills to good use for his team’s overall contender Rafal Majka by covering breaks to position himself up front in readiness to support the Pole.
With the race for overall still wide open – especially for the podium places – McCarthy is in store for a tough final week, but one that he should relish. If McCarthy does slip in to a breakaway and it stays away to the finish, don’t be surprised to see him have a crack, as he did in his Grand Tour debut, that being the 2013 Giro where he placed third on stage 17.
Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEdge)
After stage 15: 155th overall at 3:07:19
Michael Hepburn, in the Giro with only the Tour de Romandie in his legs after training with the Australian team pursuit track squad since January’s Tour Down Under, was a vital cog with Kiwi Sam Bewley and Canadian Svein Tuft in positioning Caleb Ewan and his Slovenian lead-out Luka Mezgec in the last kilometres leading up to the bunch sprints.
With Ewan gone, Hepburn will help Colombian teammate and overall contender Esteban Chaves on flatter stretches, and Mezgec in the last real sprint stages – stage 17 and 21.
After stage 15: 164th overall at 3:27:45
Jack Bobridge, like Michael Hepburn, started the Giro with limited road racing miles in his legs after training with the Australian team pursuit squad. He was fortunate to escape relatively unscathed from a summersault off the right hand side of the road on stage 5.
His team had a big set back on stage 14 with the withdrawal of their Canadian overall hope Ryder Hesjedal. But Bobridge, who is placed last overall after 15 stages, has plenty to work for in the last week helping Italian teammate Giacomo Nizzolo defend the red points jersey.
Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge)
Did not start stage 13
Caleb Ewan came to the Giro for experience to add on to his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a Espana where he won a stage. Suffice to say, his goal in the Giro was to win a stage as well.
Ewan may have missed out with his best finishes being a seventh on stage 2, ninth on stage 5, fourth on stage 4 and a second behind German Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) on stage 12.
It was after stage 12 that he withdrew from the Giro – as did Greipel. However, he left the Giro all the better for his experience, and he is confident of what lays ahead for him this season.
Did not start stage 15
Leigh Howard, who started the season strongly, came in to the Giro working in tandem with Heinrich Haussler on seizing any winning chances in the harder sprint finishes, otherwise focused assisting his IAM Cycling’s main sprinter for the flat finales, Italian Matteo Pelucchi.
But his Giro hopes were scuppered by injuries sustained in a mass pile-up on stage 11 that saw him land in a canal. He hurt his shoulder and elbow and woke the next day with his upper back and neck sore. After two hard days in the Dolomites on stages 13 and 14, he withdrew.
Rupert Guinness first wrote on cycling at the 1984 Victorian road titles in Australia from the finish line on a blustery and cold hilltop with a few dozen supporters. But since 1987, he has covered 26 Tours de France, as well as numerous editions of the Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a Espana, classics, world track and road titles and other races around the world, plus four Olympic Games (1992, 2000, 2008, 2012). He lived in Belgium and France from 1987 to 1995 writing for Winning Magazine and VeloNews, but now lives in Sydney as a sports writer for The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media) and contributor to Cyclingnews and select publications.
An author of 13 books, most of them on cycling, he can be seen in a Hawaiian shirt enjoying a drop of French rosé between competing in Ironman triathlons.
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