Orica-GreenEdge began the Giro d'Italia on a high note, but is now struggling to survive until the race finishes in Trieste on Sunday. After Ivan Santaromita abandoned overnight with a fever, it continues with only two riders: Michael Hepburn and Svein Tuft.
"They'll finish the Giro d'Italia in Trieste," head sports director, Matt White told Cycling Weekly, "even if I have to put them in the boot of my car and drive them there myself!"
Tuft led the way for Orica's nine-man team when the race began in Belfast over two weeks ago with a team time trial. They won the stage and Tuft took the leader's pink jersey for 24 hours.
However, Orica now continues with a skeleton squad. Against the 16-metre long white and blue bus this morning in Belluno, only two bikes rested. Overnight, mechanics packed up Santaromita's bike.
"I'd rather be in my situation, with the three stage wins and a week in the pink jersey," added White. "We have been the most successful team here."
Not only riders, Orica waved good-bye to its mechanics and soigneurs. It began in Belfast with four soigneurs, four mechanics and a physiotherapist. Today, it sent home one soigneur and it already cut one mechanic.
"It's a lot more personalised care now," White said. "We have one soigneur per rider, one mechanic per rider, one DS per rider. We are running on a skeleton staff now."
Riders when and why they abandoned:
- Brett Lancaster, DNS stage 7, broken arm
- Cameron Meyer, DNS 8, stomach problems
- Michael Matthews, DNS 11, due to a cuts and bruises
- Luke Durbridge, DNF 11, broken collarbone
- Pieter Weening, DNF 14, stomach problems
- Mitch Docker, DNF 15, fever
- Ivan Santaromita, DNS 18, fever
"I've never have been in a team where it's been this bad," White said. "We did have a time in team Garmin at the Vuelta a España, where we finished with four riders. We had already planned to send two home, but then two got sick, Christian Meier's brother died and he left – all of a sudden we were down to four riders. After Julian Dean rode the Giro and Tour, I asked him to stay and finish the race. He was certainly not planning that."
"It's been a contrast of emotion and results for us at the Giro. Three stages wins and a week in the pink jersey was the best possible scenario, but ending with a couple of riders wasn't planned."
Tuft and Hepburn were third and second from last in the Giro's general classification after stage 17.
"We have second and third last. Svein could go for the double, he won it [last place] in the Tour last year. You try to win it, it's a risk, you'll end up at home before you finish last," said White.
Team time trial specialists Orica-GreenEdge celebrate another victory in the discipline, with Svein Tuft wearing the maglia rosa in Belfast
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