Every four years, I watch the Olympics, and every four years, I watch sports such as diving, swimming, and gymnastics, and question my life decisions.
Tonight’s stage is all about Australia’s biggest cycling team, Orica-GreenEDGE.
They’ve got two of the brightest young talents in cycling at this year’s Giro and a nation’s worth of bleary-eyed supporters cheering them on from the other side of the world. Enjoy!
Who are their sponsors?
Orica are an Australian company that manufactures explosives for mining, while GreenEDGE is the name given to the squad, which will remain until the team finds a second major sponsor. Despite the fact the team has been extremely successful since its inception in 2012 (they’ve won stages and worn the leader’s jersey in all three of the sport’s Grand Tours), they still haven’t found that second sponsor to help shore up the team’s future.
Rider for today’s stage
In case you’ve been completely ignoring Australian cycling for the last couple of years, Caleb Ewan is the next big thing in Australian sprinting.
The pocket-sized fast man (he’s just 165cm tall) spent most of last year winning sprints at second-tier events like the Tour of Korea and the Tour de Langkawi, but stepped up to the highest level late in the year, taking a stage win in the Vuelta a España.
This year he’s already taken two stage wins at the Tour Down Under and finished second to fellow sprinting hotshot Fernando Gaviria in a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. He’s not as able to get over climbs as well as his sprinting rivals André Greipel and Giacomo Nizzolo, so he’s better suited to the flatter stages, where his extremely aerodynamic position can help him hit his top speed.
The biggest challenge for Ewan on tonight’s very flat stage to Arnhem in the Netherlands will be the Dutch wind – as a lighter rider, he’ll rely on his teammates to shelter him from the crosswinds that so often define Dutch racing. If his teammates can shepherd him into position for the final sprint, Ewan’s a real chance to take what would be the biggest win in what looks like it will be a very bright career.
38 year-old Canadian Svein (pronounced ‘Swain’) Tuft is an unusual rider in many ways. He dropped out of school at age 15, and at 18 he hooked a trailer up to a second-hand bike and trekked across Canada for five years before trying racing for the first time.
This meant that he had a very late start to professional cycling – in 2013 he became the oldest man ever to debut in the Tour de France at 36. Although he won the opening pink jersey at the 2014 Giro, he plies his daily trade assisting his teammates, either by driving at the front of the bunch to bring back a breakaway, or fetching bottles from a team car.
Stage wins for Ewan, and a top ten finish overall for their Colombian climber Esteban Chaves. They’ll be targeting the flat sprint stages in the first week for Ewan, as it’s unlikely that he’ll make it all the way to the end of the Giro – he is only 21, after all. Chaves finished fifth overall at last year’s Vuelta a España, won two stages, and wore the leader’s red jersey for six days.
With his million megawatt smile and legions of fans, the diminutive Colombian looks to be Orica’s best chance to snag a podium finish in one of cycling’s Grand Tours, and for the first time is coming to a Grand Tour with a squad largely tailored to helping him succeed. Tuft and former Australian time trial champion Michael Hepburn are a decent chance of placing well in stage 9’s 40km time trial to Chianti.
Reason to cheer
They’re proudly Australian, and have a handy knack for successfully targeting the races they know they can win. They’re a bit less serious during their downtime than a lot of other teams – they released a parody of Call Me Maybe during the 2012 Vuelta, and another of Uptown Funk during their training camp last year.
Their videographer Dan Jones makes Backstage Pass videos that give you a great insight of how things are going inside the team, and they can be genuinely moving when the team gets a big win – even a couple of months later it’s hard not to be moved by their video from Mat Hayman’s unlikely victory at Paris-Roubaix.
Reason to jeer
Orica-GreenEDGE is a team that have built themselves around a clean reputation, and just last week their young British climber Simon Yates tested positive for the banned substance terbutaline at Paris-Nice in early March, allegedly after a team doctor forgot to apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for an asthma medication.
The team have accepted full responsibility for the positive test (which is nigh on unprecedented), but Australian fans who only casually follow cycling will struggle to support an Australian squad if they see it as just another cycling team abusing performance-enhancing drugs.