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2016 Giro d'Italia preview series: Caleb Ewan leads the Aussie charge

Caleb Ewan is among the favourites to take out Stage 1 of the TDU. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
Editor
3rd May, 2016
10

Caleb Ewan will lead the Australian contingent into battle at the 2016 Giro d’Italia, with the young sprinter looking to win plenty of stages.

That said, all 13 Aussies listed to begin the race will be hoping for success, whether it be in breakaways, helping teammates, or taking stage wins.

And of course team Orica-GreenEDGE, who have had plenty of success in the last few years, really represents Australia on the global stage. If you say you don’t get excited when someone from Orica – Aussie or not – has a win, you are probably not being truthful.

For that reason, I’ll split the article into two sections – an OGE only part, and then the Aussies.

Orica-GreenEDGE

The riders
141. Esteban Chavez (Colombia)
142. Sam Bewley (New Zealand)
143. Caleb Ewan (Australia)
144. Michael Hepburn (Australia)
145. Damien Howson (Australia)
146. Luka Mezgec (Slovenia)
147. Ruben Plaza (Spain)
148. Svein Tuft (Canada)
149. Amets Txurruka (Spain)

The outlook
This Giro looks to continue OGEs shift towards a high general classification finish, rather than pushing for breakaways, and stage and time trials wins.

Despite wunderkind Ewan being expected to win stages, after taking one during his first Grand Tour at the 2015 Vuelta a Espana, he hasn’t even been named the number one rider on the team.

That honour belongs to Colombian pocket-rocket Esteban Chavez.

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Chavez might have struggled at the Giro last year, but he was brilliant at the season-ending Vuelta, winning two stages and finishing fifth overall. It was a breakout performance, and leaves him with high expectations coming into the Giro.

The biggest problem for Orica-GreenEDGE may well be sharing resources between Ewan and Chavez. Ewan will have the likes of Bewley, Hepburn and Howson to help him in the sprints, but they will also be required to save energy for the mountains.

Certainly, as talked about yesterday, Ewan on credentials alone looks to be one of the best in the field. He will have to overcome the likes of Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel – although Kittel’s form is not great, he is fast, and obviously Greipel needs no further introduction.

Teamwork could let Ewan down though, and it will be interesting to see how he performs if left to his own devices.

Chavez’s biggest help will come from Ruben Plaza. The experienced Spaniard has won stages at both the Tour de France and the Vuelta, and taken out GC at various smaller tours. Luke Mezgec and Txurruka are also experienced and know how to handle themselves in the mountains, something that OGE have lacked throughout their history.

Prediction
Ewan should take out at least one stage here. He is fast, and proved at the Vuelta he can handle himself on the big stage.

Chavez on the other hand is looking to build on that top-five result at the Vuelta. If he can defend well, and not lose time on Stage 1 at the time trial – which is not his strong suit – he should go pretty well. The other two time trials are mountainous, which should suit him. Expect him to be in the top five come Torino.

The rest

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Simon Clarke (Cannondale Pro Cycling Team)
Clarke finds himself lining up for Cannondale this year, moving across from Orica-GreenEDGE, where he had plenty of success, winning stages at each of the Grand Tours and finishing second at last year’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

Clarke can be aggressive as well, having won the King of the Mountains at the 2012 Vuelta. He probably won’t get much of an opportunity to be overly aggressive early on though, with team leader Rigoberto Uran calling the shots.

If Uran was to fall away from the pink jersey situation though, expect Clarke to feature prominently in breakaways.

Nathan Haas (Dimension Data)
Haas could be classified as a better-than-average opportunist. He knows how to find the right moves, and is a very aggressive bike rider.

His career highlights include winning the Tour of Britain in 2012 and finishing fifth overall at the 2014 Tour Down Under while riding for Garmin-Sharp.

He finished sixth at this year’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, and has just won the mountain classification at the Tour de Yorkshire.

Riding for Dimension Data, he should get plenty of opportunities to do his thing.

Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling)
Struggled for form during the classics season, which is generally his biggest strength. Still had top-ten finishes in the Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo races, so it wasn’t a total disaster.

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As a sprinter he knows how to win, having taken out stages at the Giro and Tour in the past.

However, at 32 years of age is he over the hill? He hasn’t had a win since the beginning of 2015, at the Australian Road Championships. In saying that, some of these stages should suit him down to the ground if his team can set a high pace.

Leigh Howard (IAM Cycling)
Will be working for Matteo Pelucchi, leader of IAM, and also Haussler. But once we get into the real mountains, expect Howard to be given free rein. He can be aggressive, and will aim for a stage at some point.

David Tanner (IAM Cycling)
Tanner is in a similar boat to Howard – will work when required, which will be mainly for Haussler, but should be allowed to get in breakaways for most of the race.

While he has never won a Grand Tour stage, he has wins at smaller races, and will use his experience to try snag a stage.

Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal)
Does this man actually understand the words ‘rest’ or ‘stop’? It has got to the point where it would be a surprise to not see the veteran Aussie line up for a Grand Tour.

He has won stages at both the Giro and Vuelta, but will be tied up for probably the first two weeks forming part of the lead-out for big sprinter Greipel.

Rory Sutherland (Movistar)
Sutherland was in strong form during the Classics season as a workhorse for team leader Alejandro Valverde – and we shouldn’t expect to see anything different here.

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He will just ride and ride all day long, trying to deliver victory for the veteran Spaniard.

Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff)
McCarthy is one of Australian cycling’s future hopes. He finished fourth at this year’s Tour Down Under to capture the minds of the Australian public, and while he isn’t up to keeping with the big guns in the mountains, he will be an important cog in the machine for Rafal Majka.

Should Majka fail in his quest for pink, McCarthy will be looked to for plenty of attacks.

Jack Bobridge (Trek-Segafredo)
Still only 26 years of age, the track and road rider will be working in support of former Giro winner Ryder Hesejdal. However, he has often been turned to if teams need someone in the breakaway – and of course he is the current Australian national champion.

While he has struggled for form this year, he is a strong time trialist and will be aiming to succeed early in the race on Stage 1.

The series will wrap up tomorrow as we take a look at all the GC contenders for the 2016 Giro d’Italia.

Follow Scott on Twitter @sk_pryde