Ewan grand tour debut highlights Orica’s lineup for Vuelta a Espana
Orica-GreenEdge brings the best of Australia’s old and new to the Vuelta a España.
Simon Gerrans, 34, back from an injury that knocked him out of the Tour de France, is the team’s confirmed consistent producer, while Caleb Ewan, 21, one of Australia’s new leading lights, will make his grand tour debut.
The pair highlights a well-rounded Orica squad loaded with stage-hunters, along with Colombian and GC hopeful Esteban Chaves.
“We are going to shoot pretty high,” sport director Neil Stephens said in a team release. “We are coming off a fantastic Clásica San Sebastián, and hopefully that is the trend of what is to come for the next month of racing in Spain.”
Stephens was referring to Adam Yates’ big win at the Spanish one-day classic earlier this month. Though the Yates brothers are not part of its Vuelta plans, the Australian outfit nonetheless has high ambitions.
Orica wants to push Chaves, winner of the 2011 Tour de l’Avenir, into the top 10 as it continues to nurture his GC credentials. That’s a big ask, considering the depth and quality of the Vuelta field that includes the Tour’s top 4 on GC.
More than anything, the team wants to take something out of the Vuelta. Orica won the opening team time trial at the Giro d’Italia, wore the pink jersey for four stages, and won stage 3 with Michael Matthews, but things didn’t go the way it had hoped at the Tour. Top riders Gerrans and Daryl Impey both crashed out, and both are back for the Vuelta, so Stephens said the team comes loaded with motivation.
“We also want to pull off a stage win and if we can pull off one, why not two?” Stephens continued. “We are coming off a Tour de France being proud of what our guys managed when the odds were stacked up against them, but we didn’t walk away with the results we were hoping for, so we are coming into this grand tour with a very motivated team.”
Gerrans, meanwhile, will be hoping to get through the Vuelta in one piece. He’s suffered three broken bones this season, and will be racing the Vuelta to gain fitness ahead of the road world cycling championships in Richmond, Virginia next month.
Orica is bringing Ewan to the Vuelta in what will be the young neo-pro’s grand tour debut. He’s been impressive in his first full pro season, taking 10 victories in Australia, Asia, and Europe. He was close to his first UCI WorldTour win, with two top 5s at the Tour of Poland.
“As a team we just want him to get out there for the experience. He will ride half of the race as a maximum, if not only a week to 10 days,” Stephens said. “We have some great riders to guide him through — right from how he should handle the pressure before the race and the team presentation, to how to handle the media, the press conference, and all the other little pressures that come with a grand tour.”
The 70th Vuelta starts Saturday with a team time trial in Puerto Banus.
Orica-GreenEdge for the Vuelta a Espana
Simon Gerrans (Aus)
Daryl Impey (SA)
Mitchell Docker (Aus)
Esteban Chaves (Col)
Mathew Hayman (Aus)
Damien Howson (Aus)
Jens Keukeleire (B)
Cameron Meyer (Aus)
Caleb Ewan (Aus)