The Italian WorldTour team Lampre-Merida will begin 2014 at the Tour Down Under with the aim of returning home with a handful of stage wins and a good placing in the overall classification. The seven-man team is built around Roberto Ferrari who will go head-to-head in the sprints with the German powerhouses André Greipel and Marcel Kittel.
In his previous appearance at the Australian race, Ferrari finished in the top ten of the sprint classification at the 2013 Tour Down Under and is looking for a good start to the 2014 season.
Santos Tour Down Under Race Director Mike Turtur said the team will have their sights set on particular stages of next year's race. "With the team focusing on stage wins for Ferrari, I expect Lampre-Merida will be targeting Stages 2 and 4 as the likelihood of a bunch sprint finish is high," he said.
While Ferrari is targeting the flat stages, Lampre will also be looking for a high overall finish with Rafael Valls. The Spaniard will make his debut with Lampre having spent the last two seasons with the now defunct Vacansoleil - DCM team.
Turtur believes that the team should have success considering its approach and that rider such as Valls have done well at the race in the past. "Lampre-Merida also has a good contender for the Ochre Jersey in Valls Ferri who finished only 53 seconds behind winner Tom-Jelte Slagter in 2013," said Tutur.
Helping Ferrari out in the sprints will be Diego Ulissi who is looking forward to his first appearance at the Santos Tour Down Under. Ulissi had a successful 2013 which he capped off with victory at Milano-Torino and is hoping to use the race to build form for the upcoming season rather than expecting to add to his palmarès.
"I'm really excited to live the Australian experience. It will be my first time in the land down under. I travelled a lot during my career, but the Australian challenge gives me new spurs," said Ulissi. "Talking about my aims, it's necessary to consider that the Santos Tour Down Under comes very early in the season, so it won't so easy to go there to get a result."
The announcement by Lampre follows that of rival WorldTour teams who are sending strong squads to the race ensuring strong competition for the overall and stage wins. "We have already announced that some of the world's best cyclists including Cadel Evans (BMC) and Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) will be competing and I think 2014 is shaping up to be one of the best line-ups in the event's history," said Turtur.