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Giro d'Italia

Orica’s Giro d’Italia goals: Win stages, wear pink

The Australian-based squad wants to start the race by successfully defending its opening-stage TTT win

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Orica-GreenEdge is hoping to keep the ball rolling from its best-ever spring, and will enter the Giro d’Italia with high ambitions of winning stages and wearing the pink jersey.

While the Australian outfit doesn’t bring an outright favorite for the overall victory, it will bring a squad loaded with stage-hunters and protagonists for the Giro, which clicks into gear Saturday in Sanremo.

Michael Matthews, Simon Gerrans, and Esteban Chaves will be at the sharp end of the action, and the team will hope to defend its team time trial victory from a year ago in Belfast.

“We are aiming for multiple stage wins and the leader’s jersey. If we could achieve similar results to last year then it would be a fair call to say we would be satisfied,” Orica sport director Matt White said in a team release. “I honestly think it’s achievable. I think if we can win the first stage team time trial we are off to a sensational start. Then when you look at the stages throughout the three weeks, we have got multiple options with our fast guys in Matthews and Gerrans, we also have a great group of opportunists to take on the medium mountain stages and even high mountains with Chaves.”

Last year, Orica opened the Giro with a bang, winning the opening TTT, putting Svein Tuft into the pink jersey. Matthews also won a stage and carried the maglia rosa deep into the first week. Tuft isn’t back on for the Giro this year, but Luke Durbridge, Brett Lancaster, and Michael Hepburn, who were involved in last year’s success, will bolster the team’s chances for Saturday’s 17.6-kilometer race along the Italian Riviera.

“We have four guys who have a wealth of experience in that event in Brett Lancaster, Michael Hepburn, Luke Durbridge and Sam Bewley, and they’re the backbone to our team time trial,” White said. “They are guys that handle big pressure, they handle big events, and they’re really looking forward to Saturday. And in the other half of the team we have some strong guys who we know can contribute at an incredibly high level.”

Gerrans, who has been dogged by crashes and injuries this season, and Matthews will be looking to carry team colors in the sprint finishes and punchy, uphill finales. White said the team is hoping each will leave the Giro with a stage victory added to their respective palmares.

Once the race turns into the mountains, Orica will be counting on Pieter Weening, who won a stage last year, and 2012 Vuelta a Espana stage and mountains classification winner Simon Clarke, who will be given the green light to go on the attack.

White said it’s still too early for Orica’s long-term GC project Chaves, 25, to seriously challenge for the overall. Instead, the spindly Colombian who made his grand tour debut last year at the Vuelta a España will be looking to get another hard three weeks of racing in his legs.

“We are thinking more long term for Esteban. We want to use the Giro as a big block for him,” White said. “It’s all still part of his comeback. He rode the Vuelta last year, with some great results and we are going to build on that at the Giro, but general classification is not something we will be targeting as a team.”