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ORICA-GreenEDGE Names Vuelta a España Team
"It wasn't an easy selection to make," said Sports Director Neil Stephens. "We had more riders deserving a spot than we had spaces. We chose an equal mix of riders that have the capability to produce results and riders the would benefit from a three week tour as part of their development as professional cyclists."
Four riders will make their Grand Tour debut with ORICA-GreenEDGE. Travis Meyer, Mitch Docker, Simon Clarke and Daniel Teklehaimont each have distinctly different goals for their first three week stage race.
Clarke targeted top performances at the Ardennes Classics and Tour of Norway earlier in the season, finishing second overall in the Norwegian stage race. The second half of his season has been firmly focused on the Vuelta.
"Simon has shown repeatedly that he's able to provide team support in different types of races," said Sports Director Neil Stephens. "He's also well-suited to punchy finishes because he's light and explosive. He comes out of Burgos in good condition, with two stage podiums, and we may see some strong personal performances from him during the Vuelta."
Meyer exhibits a mixed bag of strengths and Stephens says this makes him hard to categorize. The 23-year-old has had success in time trials, one-day races and shorter tours.
"Travis is a good all around worker for the team," Stephens said. "He's a bit of a surprise package in that we see him do well in one area and think he's found a niche and then he'll turn around and do well somewhere else. He's been a nice surprise up until this point. I saw solid indications of his ability to handle a heavy workload on behalf of his teammates at Burgos, and we're eager to see what he's capable of in a three week race."
Teklehaimanot, like Meyer, is in the early stages of his development as a rider, but his strengths are clear. The neo-pro from Eritrea could become a world class climber. First, he needs to learn how hard he can push his body and how to endure the accompanying suffering.
"Daniel's inclusion into our Vuelta squad is a crucial step in his development," explained Stephens. "He has become a smarter and stronger rider throughout this year, and there is no better place for him to test his improvements than at the Tour of Spain. Dan will need to takes notes from his teammates and staff to make it through the three weeks. We're here for him to help him make it to Madrid."
An early season injury forced Docker to switch his preseason focus from spring classics to Spanish racing.
"Mitch has progressed well during the second half of the season," Stephens said. "He's well ahead of the mark we set for him. He showed huge improvements in Poland and further gains at Burgos. He will be an important rider in all aspects of our performance, especially in our sprint train."
The sprint train of which Docker will be a part has been created for Allan Davis. The Queenslander boasts four second place finishes and one third, the most recent stage podium coming from the Tour de Suisse. A pair of fourth place finishes at Vuelta a Burgos were encouraging signs for Stephens.
"Allan has shown since the start of the season that he's around the edges of that top tier of sprinters," said Stephens. "He had a long break in July, and I am happy with what I've seen since he's come back from that rest. We expect to see Allan factor into various bunch sprints throughout the three weeks in Spain."
Julian Dean will prove another key component to Davis' sprint train. The Kiwi has long been considered one of the best in the lead-out business. Dean missed most of the season due to two untimely injuries. His first injury took him out ahead of the season start. His second, a broken leg suffered during the Volta a Catalunya, forced him to the sidelines only two days after he returned to racing. His current form, despite two serious injuries, underlies his tenacity in the face of unplanned circumstances.
"Julian has ridden a similar summer program as Mitch," noted Stephens. "Like Mitch, he's ahead of the mark we've set for him. Julian clearly suffered during Burgos, as did most of the field, and he became reacquainted with what it feels like to suffer to that degree. Julian's a tough rider, and he rides 100% for the team. In certain regards, he'll act as team leader on the road during the race."
Pieter Weening provides additional experience. The only rider among the nine to also ride the Tour de France, Weening will target stage wins in Spain.
"Pieter performed well at the Tour, but he left with a desire to do an even better at the Vuelta," explained Stephens. "We've spoken about his goals, and we know a good overall performance might be difficult after a solid Tour de France, so we're looking to him for strong individual showings on key stages."
Cameron Meyer began his development as a stage race overall contender this season, and his progression continues with a leadership role at the Vuelta a España. The older of the two Meyer brothers finished tenth overall at Tirreno Adriatico and narrowly missed the top-ten, in 11th place, at the Amgen Tour of California.
"Cameron can time trial, climb and position himself well in the bunch," said Stephens. "He has many of the qualities we seek in a rider who can perform well on the general classification of a longer stage race. We're looking towards Cameron as our only rider to focus on overall results. He'll have support from his teammates when possible in the mountains."
Wesley Sulzberger gives ORICA-GreenEDGE a final 'wild card' amongst its nine riders. Always ready to ride on the front for his teammates, the Tasmanian is equally comfortable taking his chances from a breakaway group as he is setting tempo on the front of the bunch.
"Wes has shown a lot of promise as a developing rider," said Stephens. "He has a wide range of talents that we're able to use. We're confident that he can handle the early work the team will require to do on certain stages."
"All in all, the entire Vuelta team is looking forward to the first Spanish Grand Tour for ORICA-GreenEDGE," concluded Stephens. "I'm confident this year's final Grand Tour will bring some great results for us along the way."
ORICA-GreenEDGE for Vuelta a España:
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