The Roar
The Roar


Promise, not podiums on display for GreenEDGE at Giro

Caleb Ewan is among the favourites to take out Stage 1 of the TDU. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
18th May, 2016

Orica-GreenEDGE may have had more successful Grand Tours, but in terms of rider development, this Giro d’Italia is perhaps one of its most important.

The team is transitioning from a squad of opportunists seeking out victories wherever they can find them, to a Grand Tour-focused outfit with both sprint and general classification options.

Caleb Ewan and Esteban Chaves are at the forefront of this transition and the Orica-GreenEDGE management must be buoyed by what they are seeing unfold on the roads of Italy during this Giro.

While critics who count success as stage wins may consider their performances thus far to be modest, the pair of youngsters are gaining invaluable experience against world class competition. They are both still babes of their craft, learning and adapting as they go and they will come away from Italy with a far clearer picture of where their development is at and how much work is still to be done.

In the sprints Ewan has been up against the invincible Germans, Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) as well as a formidable second tear of fast men led by the likes of Elia Viviani (Sky), Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafedo).

The 21-year-old Australian was not a factor in the sprints during the first week of racing. Yes, he had a couple of top ten finishes, but he was out of position when the big boys launched their final surges, being too far back and getting tangled up in the flotsam, jetsam and also-rans that make up the wake of a fast finish.

I’m sure Ewan was disappointed. To be with the leaders after such long days in the saddle only to be out positioned in the final stanza must almost seem like wasted effort.

Which is why we all should have been smiling by Stage 7, when Ewan, ably piloted by Luka Mezgec, swept around the final bend in perfect position to launch his own run at the line. Unfortunately he was swamped at the end to finish fourth, but he was very much in contention to win the sprint and made the others work for it.


The point is, he wasn’t caught out of position again. That he was willing to attack from the front this time, showed that he was not afraid to try something different to have an influence on a race.

That he missed the podium is not important. The legs to finish off such a stage will come as he matures.

Just as a side note, I’m not convinced by Ewan’s nose-over-the-front-wheel sprinting technique. Now, I am sure it has been tested and assessed by blokes smarter than me, but it looks awkward. It didn’t seem to gain him anything extra in the finale of Stage 7 either, although there is no shame in being passed by an inform Andre Greipel!

Also, if you are 195cm tall (like I am), and weigh in at around 97kgs (like I do), don’t try it (like I did). Trust me, it will only end in tears.

Now let’s talk about Chaves.

The 26-year-old Colombian came to prominence at last year’s Vuelta a Espana. He ended that race with two stage victories and fifth place overall. His daring style, easy going nature and cheeky smile made him an instant crowd favourite.

But the question remained. Could he back up and do it all again at this year’s Giro?


The answer is a resounding yes.

He is not intimidated by the big names and holds his own (usually without support) on the slopes against all of the GC favourites and climbers. Where he does fall down though is in the individual time trials. Discount the two time trials so far and Chaves would be just two seconds behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) on general classification and six seconds ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Instead he is at 1:34 and 1:36 behind those two respectively.

A lowly 51st place in the Stage 9 ITT at Chianti saw Chaves slip from sixth overall to 13th, losing time to all of his main rivals. He has since clawed his way back into the top ten on the back of some strong climbing, but if he is to seriously threaten for a Grand Tour podium he needs to get better at racing against the clock.

He may never be a really accomplished time triallist, but with both age and a positive attitude working in his favour, significant improvement is not out of the question. Only then will he become a complete threat for general classification. I am sure it is something he is working on.

If and when that happens, I would love to see him teamed up with the Yates brothers in a Grand Tour. That extra support may be all that he (or the Yates boys for that matter) need to establish themselves as genuine Grand Tour contenders.

In the meantime the Orica-GreenEdge hierarchy would be sitting back quietly pleased with the way their young hopes are shaping up. They may not have stood on the podium in Italy yet, but both Ewan and Chaves remain their team’s best chance of stealing a victory.

Fast forward a couple of years and we will be expecting it!