Matt White Q&A – Objectives of Orica-GreenEdge
On the day before the eve of the 99th Tour de France, Orica-GreenEdge hosted a little gathering at its hotel with a group of guests that included representatives of the Australian ambassador to Belgium, the team’s benefactor Gerry Ryan, a few members of the media and various other supporters of the squad that is due to make its debut in The Big Loop of France. Rob Arnold caught up with directeur sportif Matt White to find out what we can expect from the team in the next three weeks.
Matt White Interview
RIDE: Here we are, one day from the eve of the Orica-GreenEdge team’s debut in the Tour de France. We’ve been told what the premise of your objectives have been since the start of the season: the hope is to win stages and challenge for the green jersey with Matt Goss. Is there any amendment to the original plan that the team stated in January?
Matt White: “There’s been no deviation from our original objective. Obviously we’ve got a lot of goals for the Tour de France and one of them is the green jersey with Matt Goss. We’re not hiding our plans – we’re definitely chasing a win in the points classification along with a few other teams – but as you can see from the make up of the team, we’re quite versatile. That said, we’re not going general classification. We want stage wins. That’s the number-one target: to win a stage of the Tour de France with someone from our roster… and then give Matt Goss a chance to chase the green jersey all the way to Paris.”
With three of your team already named as part of the Australian team for the Olympic road race, does it alter any of your plans for the Tour?
Matt White: “No, not at all. Mark Cavendish may be thinking of pulling out in the Tour de France but I don’t think there’s any other athlete who is here – no matter what team their in – who is going to alter their ambitions in this race because of the Games. The focus is the Tour de France. I think selectors from all the different countries know that, if they’ve got riders at the Tour de France, they can back up five days later at the Olympic Games.
“It’s out of everyone’s hands how those people go at the Olympics because you’re not in much control of what you’re doing in the Tour and how that’s going to affect them… maybe they’ll be feeling fine in the last week of the Tour and they’ll come out this race well for the Olympics. The older, more experienced guys can handle that load a lot better than others.”
There’s been a fair bit of talk about Cavendish losing some weight and maybe a little bit of his top end speed. What’s the state of Goss at the moment?
Matt White: “Gossie is very, very fit and he’s ready for the Tour de France. And I’m confident that he’ll also be ready for the Olympic Games.”
How many days of racing has he had this year?
Matt White: “Ooh, I can’t remember off the top of my head but it’s about 40.”
Is that fairly standard for Matt or is a little lighter than previous years because he’s a leader?
Matt White: “It’s not a program that he’s done before. He might be 25 years of age but he hasn’t been at this level for so long. He’s never done the Giro [d’Italia] to prepare for the Tour de France – but he also only did 12 stages of the Giro. We deliberately pulled him out of the Giro when we did. It was a good block of racing up to that point with the Tour of Turkey and then the Giro – but he also had a month off before Turkey which was preparation for the Giro and the Giro acted as preparation for the Tour.
“When you look at the preparation of Mark Cavendish and Matt Goss, they’re pretty similar. We started a little bit early, in January, with Gossie and they started in Qatar; they used Romandie/Giro/Ster ZLM, we used Turkey/Giro/Tour of Slovenia… the only difference is they stayed on for a bit longer. Obviously the plan for those guys is to get the right mix of racing.”
If we’re talking about other possible green jersey winners, Sagan is another guy who you’ve got to watch.
Matt White: “Yeah, for sure. He’s a rider with similar characteristics as Gossie: he’s not a pure bunch sprinter and I think where he is going to struggle is in the first week in those mad, flat sprints. He can put out the power but I don’t think he’s doing to have the same support as other teams and he is 22 years of age.
“Sagan’s weakness will be the flat sprints where he has limited help and his age: this is only his second Grand Tour and his first Tour de France so there is a difference there. He is a big threat.
“But if we’re looking at our rivals, I personally think that Mark Cavendish is not doing the full Tour… I’d say he’ll do 15 stages and then go home.”
If Goss is out of contention for the green jersey, say, after 15 stages… is there a temptation to send him home early too?
Matt White: “No way! He’s going to Paris.”
Can give us a hint of what the sequence for the lead-out is going to be?
Matt White: “We’ve got a versatile lead-out group. We can swap our train around and we will be swapping our train around a little bit during the Tour. It depends on the stage and on how much work different guys need to do.”
Can We talk quickly through the nine guys in the Orica-GreenEdge line-up and give me an idea of what the role of each rider is going to be?
Let’s start with Stuey…
“He’s the team captain. He’s going to have to do a lot of work for the team this week but he’s done it before and he’ll do it again. He’s my direct contact with the guys in the bunch. Obviously we have a very good relationship… he’s my eyes and ears in the bunch.”
“He is crucial to our lead-out! It start out as an experiment and it’s one that’s gone very right. If you’ve seen the lead-outs he did at the Giro, you’ll understand that he’s going to be very important for us at the Tour.”
“He’s a very big opportunist. The form he’s showed in the Tour de Suisse reminds us that he can win on nearly any terrain. He’s not going to ride for GC obviously but he won a mountain stage in Switzerland and he’s been mixed up in sprints this year. He’s a power house and he’s having his best season ever so he’s going to get a lot of freedom to try and win stages.”
Is Albasini the sort of guy who you might ask to get into the mix in stages seven and eight?
“One hundred per cent! We’ve ‘reconned’ stage eight to Switzerland and it’s a very, very hard stage. I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is The Stage for him but when the road goes up he is going to have a lot of freedom to move around. Everyone knows he’s not a GC guy so he’s not a big threat to those sort of teams.”
“He’s got a similar role to Albasini. Obviously, not riding for GC here so he’ll have a lot of freedom on the intermediate stages from stage eight onwards.”
“He’s another crucial member of the lead-out train. We’ll use him in a few different roles this year but at the moment I imagine that he’ll be the last guy before Gossie starts his sprint. ‘Burt’ has got the best form he’s had in many, many years. Maybe this is the best form I’ve ever seen him in. He was very consistent in January.
“With the Tour de France the sprints are a lot different to smaller races. The speed is so high for a long way before the finish; they’re not punchy sprints because someone is always taking control and the speed it up… ‘Burt’ fits in well and we’re going to experiment with a few stages with where he goes in the line-up but at the start of the Tour he’ll be the last man before Goss.”
“Baden and Brett have similar roles. They are big powerhouse guys but Baden is probably a little bit punchier but we’ve also got him there for the lead-out and for his experience in the intermediate sprints over the three weeks. He’s part of the three-guy lead-out with Impey, him and Lancaster. That’s the combination for Goss and we’ll work on when they go and where. We’ll juggle it around a little depending on the stage.”
“Obviously he’s our designated leader on all the flat stages. The green jersey is a goal.
“Gossie is not a normal bunch sprinter, that’s for sure. He can also win medium mountain stages. He’s a very similar rider to Sagan.”
“He’s coming to the Tour to do a lot of work. When you do come to the Tour de France with a recognized sprinter, you have a responsibility to chase [escape groups] and Sebastian has got a big engine and he hasn’t got the ego to upset what we want him to do. His ego isn’t too big for him to be a worker. He was our leader in the Classics… obviously with his crash in the Tour of Flanders we didn’t get to see him in full flight but he’s here now and is committed one hundred per cent to the goals of the team.”
“Peter is also not here for GC but he’s going to be given open slather from stage eight onwards. He showed with the form he had in the Dauphiné that he’s quite capable of climbing with the best guys… so now that he’s off GC hopefully he can slip up the road in one of the intermediate stages or even a high mountain stage.”
Are you always going to be in car one?
And who is going to be beside you?
“We’ll rotate that around a little bit. I’ll always do the radio but Lionel and Lorenzo will alternate because that helps keep them alert and mentally fresh as well as they’re not sitting in car number two all the time.”
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