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Orica all-in for TDU defense with Gerrans; Ewan won’t race

Orica-GreenEdge aims for record fourth Tour Down Under title for Simon Gerrans

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The peloton is starting to wake from its autumn slumber, with training camps and team meetings revving up following a few precious weeks of downtime after a wild 2014 season.

But there’s no rest for the weary, and even less so for riders from Australia, where the racing season will soon click back into gear. Orica-GreenEdge is already planning to race well on home roads, and the team will be riding for all-out victory with Simon Gerrans at the 17th Santos Tour Down Under (January 20-25).

“We’re going to the Tour Down Under to win again with Simon,” Orica sport director Matt White told VeloNews. “We’re bringing the whole team to ride for one guy. We’re not looking for stage wins. We’re not being greedy.”

Gerrans won a squeaker last year against Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), taking the leader’s jersey and eventual victory thanks to savvy racing, picking up time bonuses to erase the difference to Evans and win by one second.

Evans, the 2011 Tour de France champion, will be racing his final professional event at the Tour Down Under before retiring, but don’t expect any sympathy from White and the Orica boys. They’re racing to win again.

“Simon is at the pinnacle of his career right now,” White said. “We call him the ‘hit man.’ We just signed a three-year deal with us, and he’ll be finishing his career at Orica-GreenEdge. He’s won his biggest races with us, and he’s been a very positive influence on the team.”

“We call him the hit man”
Gerrans, 34, has already won the Tour Down Under three times, and will be aiming for a record fourth title in January.

After another big 2014 season, including victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, White said Gerrans will be running a similar schedule next season. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, White said.

“He’ll be running a similar template for 2015, cleaning up in Australia, then the Ardennes, and later the Tour de France,” White continued. “I don’t think he ran 60 days this year [63 -Ed.], but he was always there for the win in the races that counted. He only had six race days after the Tour, and he won or podiumed in four of them. He’s an easy man to respect. He leads by example.”

Ewan to miss TDU
There are no major changes for Orica-GreenEdge coming into 2015. However, Matthew Goss and Aidis Kruopis have left for MTN-Qhubeka and An Post-Chainreaction, respectively. New hires include Adam Blythe (NFTO), Jack Haig (Avanti), and the arrival late this season of the highly touted Caleb Ewan.

The 20-year-old sprinter debuted with the Orica at the Tour of Beijing, just days after winning the bunch sprint at the U23 world championship to claim silver.

Ewan, however, will not make his Australian debut in an Orica-GreenEdge jersey at the Tour Down Under. Instead, White said with the team going all-out to win with Gerrans, Ewan will race the Herald Sun Tour (February 4-8).

“He’s very mature for his age, and he’s a born winner, but we’re not taking him to the Tour Down Under,” White said. “He’ll ride the Sun Tour. We’ll give him the right mix of WorldTour and non-WorldTour races where he can win.”

Ewan is the most promising sprinter to come out of Australia in nearly a decade. Compatriot Mark Renshaw told VeloNews earlier this year that Ewan “is as good as [Mark] Cavendish.”

White said the team will give Ewan plenty of chances to win, without putting too much pressure on him too early.

“He’s a born-winner, and we’ve done a good job looking out after our young kids. We will give him a mixed program,” White said. “You want to give him a chance to win. You don’t want a young rider to always ride in support or just to learn. You don’t want a rider to lose that winning edge.”