Buoyed by their recent win in Paris-Roubaix, the Orica-GreenEdge team heads into the Ardennes week at full tilt, and with their tails most certainly up.
The Australian WorldTour team line up with strong contenders for Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, with team boss Matt White calling his Ardennes collective the ‘probably the best he’s ever had’ for the three races.
“We’ve always performed well in the Ardennes so this is a pretty exciting time for the team, especially with the leaders we have. We’re going into all three races with multiple leaders and some nice options,” he told Cyclingnews.
Amstel Gold has been a happy hunting ground for GreenEdge in recent years with the team posting top-three results in each of the last three seasons. In Michael Matthews and Simon Gerrans they have two riders at either side of the career spectrum – Gerrans the veteran and Matthews still a rising star but Amstel marks their first race together since their dispute over leadership and tactics at the World Championships. White is focused on delivering the best result for the team and will command a professional performance from his riders, with no quarter given to doubt when it comes to the team’s aims and execution of their tactics.
“We’ve got teams to cover all bases and I’d have to say that it is our strongest Ardennes squad we’ve ever had,” he said.
“If you compare it to BMC, they have had Gilbert and Van Avermaet, both competitive riders but they’ve got the job done in the past and that’s what we expect from our guys. We go into the bike race on Sunday with the aim of winning. With which rider, that doesn’t bother me, because we’re going in there trying to win Amstel, and be very competitive in Fleche and Liege. We’ve a great group of riders but, to get those sorts of results, we’re going to have to stick to our plan.”
The only injury doubt for the team at present is the participation of Simon Yates. The British rider crashed out of Pais Vasco last week and needed medical treatment as a result. He was expected to ride in the latter two Ardennes races, with leadership roles in Fleche Wallonne alongside Albasini and in Liege-Bastogne-Liege alongside his brother Adam, and Gerrans. The team will make a call on Yates’ race programme in the next few days.
“Simon Yates crashed hard in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco on the Friday and he’s had eight or nine stitches on a knee and multiple contusions and hasn’t ridden the bike since then. We’ve not finalised his position yet but for Amstel we are sorted, for Fleche we have Adam and Albasini and then for Liege we have Gerrans, Adam and hopefully Simon will be ready as well because a healthy Simon Yates really does give us some fire power in the final of these races.”
As for the first chapter in the Ardennes week, White believes that the potential absence of one rider in particular could be crucial in the outcome of the race.
“It’s a fairly predictable race. There are certain points where you need to be represented, and for us to have two guys who can win, that’s a big, big advantage. There are not many teams who will have the numbers that we have. We’ll be no more marked in previous years, especially when you see that teams like Sky have Henao and Kwiatkowski. What changes the race this year is whether Gilbert starts. He’s been Mr Amstel the last few years but his preparation for this year has been really rough. All we can expect is a very aggressive last 60 kilometres.”
Orica-GreenEdge for Amstel Gold Race: Michael Albasini, Luke Durbridge, Simon Gerrans, Mathew Hayman, Daryl Impey, Chris Juul Jensen, Michael Matthews and Adam Yates.
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