ORICA-GreenEDGE won the team time trial on the opening stage of the 2014 Giro d’Italia on Friday. Svein Tuft led the Australian outfit across the finish line, stopping the clock at 24’42 over the 21.7 kilometre course. The Canadian celebrated his 37th birthday by pulling on the maglia rosa in Belfast.
“I’m completely overwhelmed by this,” said Tuft. “It was an incredible thing for the team to give me this chance. I’m so proud to ride for a team where something like this can happen. These guys are all like brothers to me. We came in with big expectations, and we were able to deliver. It hasn’t really sunk in yet, but being up there on the podium with the guys was something I’ll never forget.”
“We’ve had some big victories over the last two weeks,” said Sport Director Matt White. “This is one we called a long way out. This was our big goal at the Giro. I think a lot of teams are scared to call it because they’re scared of failing. That’s not how we roll. We’re honest. We called it. We went for it. We got it. This is a very proud moment.”
The flat route made for fast racing, and the team handled the technical sections with ease of course, carving their way through the tunnel of noise created by the spectators decked out in pink. The team clocked the winning time with an average speed of 52.7 kilometres per hour. The second team to race, ORICA-GreenEDGE endured a two hour wait in the hot seat before receiving confirmation that their ride was good for the win. Five seconds slower than the Australian outfit, Omega Pharma-Quick-Step had come closest to challenging for the jersey. At seven seconds, BMC rounded out the stage podium.
“A lot of work certainly went into our participation,” said White. “The selection of the team and the race programmes of these riders here – it was all very intentional. We’ve used a core group of guys many times in the team time trial in the past, so it’s about adapting the guys who aren’t as familiar with our regime into the team time trial programme. That all went every smoothly.”
“We were definitely the favourites coming into the stage,” White added. “Hats off to the guys. It’s a lot harder to win when you’re the favourites for a race like this. They handled the pressure well. I’m really proud of them all.”
Part of the team since its maiden season, Tuft has been an integral part of each of the Australian outfit’s important team time trial results. During his tenure with the team, the eight time Canadian National Champion has helped deliver victory in the collective race against the clock at Tirreno-Adriatco, Eneco Tour and at the Tour de France. The win at the Tour put Simon Gerrans in the yellow jersey.
Tuft teamed up with Luke Durbridge to twice win Duo Normand, sending a record-breaking time last year. He also was part of the team’s medal winning rides in the team time trial at the World Championships – bronze in 2012, silver last year. The second Canadian to pull on the pink jersey, Tuft follows in the footsteps of Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp).
“I didn’t want to say anything about it before the race, but Svein was always our guy,” said White. “The ethos of this team is you get what you give. Svein has been part of all our great time trial results, and I think it’s only fitting that the guy who’s been the lynch pin of so many big moments gets the limelight for at least one day.”
“The team told me at the meeting this morning that they wanted me to lead the team across the line,” Tuft said. “It really meant a lot to me. I give everything on days like today, and I would have been just as proud if one of the others guys got to wear the jersey.”
The Giro d’Italia continues over the weekend with two road stages in Ireland earmarked for the sprinters. ORICA-GreenEDGE plans to work for Michael Matthews in the fast finales. The 23-year-old made his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a España last year, winning two stages.
“Having the maglia rosa is a very coveted jersey,” said White. “We want to keep it as long as possible. We ticked this box today, but we’re still chasing stage wins. The next two stages, we’ll support Michael Matthews in the sprints. This works with our plan to keep the jersey. Petacchi (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) is the only sprinter within striking distance. Our main rivals in the sprints are a little bit further down. Even if they win stages, they can’t take the jersey from us.”