Australian Tour de France veteran Stuart O’Grady will be Orica-GreenEDGE’s road captain as he equals George Hincapie’s record for starting cycling’s greatest road race 17 times when it rolls out in Corsica on Saturday June 29.
The Australian team have retained six of the nine riders who featured in their inaugural appearance last season, with sprinter Matt Goss and multiple Grand Tour stage winner Simon Gerrans among those hoping to seal the team’s first Tour de France stage victory.
And directeur sportif Matt White believes the experience of South Australian O’Grady – who has rode every tour since his 1997 debut, and worn the yellow jersey for nine days – will be a crucial part of their bid for success.
“Stuey knows his way around the bunch, and he knows his way around the Tour,” he said. “He’s experienced the yellow jersey, the green jersey, stage wins and everything in between. Having the sort of leadership that comes from his knowledge is invaluable.
“The team objective this year is to win a stage at the Tour de France. That’s our main goal. We’re bringing a more diverse team this year to give us a few more options for intermediate stages and days in the medium mountains.
“Last year, we brought together a group of riders who hadn’t raced together much before the Tour de France. This year, we have six who raced the Tour together last year and five who recently worked together at the Tour de Suisse.
“This is a group of riders that have learned to work together seamlessly.”
Sprinter Goss, who picked up a stage win at last year’s Giro d’Italia, is one of the team’s main hopes to break their team duck at the Tour and will lead the team in the sprints.
He is backed by a sprint train including South African national time trial champion Daryl Impey, Tour of Slovenia points classification winner Brett Lancaster and versatile Canadian veteran Svein Tuft, a time trial specialist selected for his Tour debut.
And White hopes the team can lead Goss – who sprinted to five stage podiums last year – to victory on at least one of the many sprinter-friendly stages on offer in the 100th edition of the Tour.
“The sprint stages remain a big focus, and we bring a dedicated sprint train to support Matt Goss on the flatter days,” he explained.
“Gossy will be our man on all the sprint stages. He had some devastatingly close calls last year.
“We saw him win a tough stage at Tirreno-Adriatico in March, finish third in the first week of the Giro d’Italia last month and race a quite consistent Tour de Suisse as part of his build-up to the Tour.
“The boys will look to deliver Gossy to the top step on one of the many stages that are available to the sprinters.”
Gerrans, the only Australian to have won stages in all three Grand Tours, is another who White feels could grab a stage victory this year.
Also selected are Swiss all-rounder Michael Albasini, a one-time Vuelta a Espana stage winner and rising star Cameron Meyer, who wore the yellow jersey for two days at the Tour de Suisse having won the opening time trial.
Meyer, 25, will be making his Tour debut and having finished tenth in Switzerland, the Commonwealth Games gold-medallist is an outsider for the white jersey.
Completing the Orica-GreenEDGE is another Tour debutant Simon Clarke, 26, who proved a revelation in his maiden Vuelta a Espana last year as he collected a stage win and topped the mountains classification.
White added: “Clarkey had a breakthrough year last year culminating in a wildly successful Vuelta. He deserves a ride at the Tour de France after what he accomplished in Spain.
“In addition to capitalizing on personal opportunities in the medium mountain stages, Simon is a fantastic teammate who can do whatever sort of work we might need on days that are better suited to another rider on the team.
“We’ll be happy with any win we can grab. Each day, we focus on our goals and the process we need to follow to achieve the goals.
“If we do our best to hit those goals, it’s our best chance to get that win. When we tick off small boxes every day, we become confident that we’ll get to tick off the big box eventually.”
Tour de France 2013 – Orica-GreenEDGE