ORICA-SCOTT’s GC focus remains for Tour de France as nine-rider line up is confirmed

ORICA-SCOTT has today named the nine-rider team selected to race the Tour de France in support of the team’s Grand Tour general classification focus identified at the start of the year.

The Australian outfit will support young climbers Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves at the three-week Tour, following their support of Adam Yates at the Giro d’Italia and ahead of a similar focus at the Vuelta a Espana later in the season.

“Nothing has changed all year with our focus,” sport director Matt White said. “We’ve had an interrupted program with Esteban’s knee injury and also a little with Simon following the change after Romandie but we are still going to the Tour de France fully supporting the pair for general classification rides.”

“For Simon, we’d like to challenge for the white jersey and if we can beat the likes of Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) in that competition, it also makes a top ten result viable.

“Realistically, we don’t know what will happen with Esteban. He’s podiumed twice before at Grand Tours but it’s his first Tour de France. Everything has gone well since the injury. As we have said before we don’t know how the lack of racing will impact his Tour de France, but regardless it will be a great experience and it will set him up for the rest of the season.”

White and the management team have selected a versatile group to support Yates and Chaves. In total, the nine-rider group has an average age of 30 and 27 Tour de France appearances between them, with two debutants.

“We have two guys to support and seven guys to do it,” White explained. “We have a very versatile team and in terms of depth for what we are trying to achieve at this year’s Tour, it’s as good as we have got.”

“There will be the opportunity to go for stages but the main objective is to support our leaders. This year’s route bucks the recent trends of race organisers. It’s been a long time since we have had nine or ten opportunities for pure sprinters and there isn’t many chances at all for the opportunists.”

The road captain role will be shared between experienced Australian Mathew Hayman on the flatter stages and Czech Roman Kreuziger come the mountains.

“Hayman is our captain for the flat stages and with so many flat stages he is going to have a very important role,” White said. “He will be our go-to guy for a big part of the race”

“Roman comes with a wealth of experience and he has finished in the top ten on three occasions at the Tour de France himself. He has also been a part of Grand Tour winning teams in the past. This experience and knowledge will be of immense value to our young climbers.”

Joining Kreuziger with a crucial role in the mountains will be second debutant Damien Howson. Howson and Hayman are joined by Luke Durbridge as the three Australian representatives.

“Damien is making his Tour debut which is really exciting for him,” White said. “He has worked extremely hard to get here and he has proved a very valuable member of the team. His performances at the Giro and Vuelta have shown he is ready for the Tour de France.”

“Luke is a big weapon in our engine room. He is one of the strongest guys getting around and whatever our daily plans are, he lays it on the line and we can rely 100% on him, not just flat stages but across a lot of terrain.”

The team is capped off with the versatility of South African Daryl Impey, Swiss Michael Albasini and Belgian Jens Keukeleire.

“Impey is one of the most versatile riders in our team, he can be used across a variety of stages,” White explained. “He is a great teammate and knows when to pick his opportunities too.”

“Albasini, like Daryl, has a wealth of experience and can be relied on across all terrains to do the necessary work for the team. The pair, along with Keukeleire, who has had a stellar year, know how to take their chances when they arise, but their primary role is to look after our leaders.”

The 2017 Tour de France runs from the 1st to the 23rd of July, starting in the German town of Dusseldorf and finishing with the traditional circuits on the Champs Elysees in Paris. The 21-day race features two time trials, nine flat stages, five medium and five mountain stages.

ORICA-SCOTT at the Tour de France (1st – 23rd July):

Michael Albasini (SUI, 36) – 9th TDF appearance
Esteban Chaves (COL, 27) – debut
Luke Durbridge (AUS, 26) – 4th TDF appearance
Mathew Hayman (AUS, 39) – 3rd TDF appearance
Damien Howson (AUS, 24) – debut
Daryl Impey (RSA, 32) – 5th TDF appearance
Jens Keulekeire (BEL, 28) – 2nd TDF appearance
Roman Kreuziger (CZE, 31) – 8th TDF appearance
Simon Yates (GBR, 24) – 3rd TDF appearance