In its first five years of existence, ORICA-SCOTT has conquered four of the five monuments of cycling. Just the Tour of Flanders remains.
This Sunday, the Australian outfit starts with one of its strongest line ups in history, looking to better the previous best result of tenth in 2013.
“Imagine if we could win Flanders and have all the monuments, that’s the dream scenario,” sport director Laurenzo Lapage contemplated with a little laugh.
“But what’s most important is that we are starting these races with the experience we have now and we show ourselves in the race. Results come after that.
“We need to put everything on the line and if it’s a win, it’s a win, but our priority is being ready to fight and we are ready to do that.”
Belgian Jens Keukeleire, who has been ORICA-SCOTT’s best placed finisher in four of the team’s five starts at the cobbled classic, enters the race with the confidence and motivation from a narrow second place at Gent-Wevelgem less than one week ago.
The 28-year-old is joined by Australian Luke Durbridge who has also this year stamped his authority as a classics rider thanks to fourth place finishes at Dwars Door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke in the last two weeks.
“I think when you look at team we have, we started with guys with a lot of potential but not very much experience in these cobbled classics,” Lapage explained. “All they needed was the opportunity to get that experience and now what we are seeing is their growth year by year because of that.”
“Luke and Jens both deserve our protection but we are also seeing our other guys performing better. It shows where we are as a team and that everyone is willing to fight for each other.”
2016 Paris-Roubaix winner Mathew Hayman and experienced Classics rider Mitch Docker will join the duo to form a formidable leading four.
New Zealand’s Sam Bewley, young Dane Magnus Cort, Slovenian speedster Luka Mezgec and under-23 Flanders winner Australian Alexander Edmondson will complete the line up as crucial workers in a race where positioning and immediate assistance is crucial.
The Tour of Flanders, known as Ronde van Vlaanderen, sees some changes to the route in its 101st edition. The 260km race starts in Antwerpen and finishes in Oudenaarde.
Riders will face 18 ‘bergs’, including the famous Koppenberg, Oude-Kwaremont and Paterberg climbs, before racing for glory in the second monument of the season.
ORICA-SCOTT at the Tour of Flanders (Sunday, 2 April):
Sam Bewley (NZL, 29)
Magnus Cort (DEN, 24)
Mitch Docker (AUS, 30)
Luke Durbridge (AUS, 25)
Alexander Edmondson (AUS, 23)
Mathew Hayman (AUS, 38)
Jens Keukeleire (BEL, 28)
Luka Mezgec (SLO, 28)