TRIESTE: The Australian Orica-GreenEDGE team already has a rider who could become a general classification leader, according to former Tour de France champion Cadel Evans.
“I see they have one or two [riders] who have the potential to progress from where they are now in time and become contenders for 'GC',” Evans (BMC) said on Sunday after finishing the Giro d’Italia placed eighth overall, at 11 minutes 51 seconds to Colombian winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who won the 3449km tour by 2mins 58secs from fellow countryman Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) who was second and 4mins 4secs on Italian Fabio Aru (Astana) in third.
But asked which riders he was referring to, Evans just cited one, British rider Simon Yates, 21, who – with his twin brother Adam – is in his first season on the team.
“I have just seen the way he rides and raced at [the Tour of the] Pays Basque. I think he has a lot of potential,” Evans said, referring to Yates’ 12th place overall at 3 mins 7 seconds to Spanish winner and two times Tour champion Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the hilly tour in which Yates also won the best young rider’s category.
Yates did not race in the Giro that finished on Sunday with Slovenian Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) winning the final and 21st stage, 178km from Gemona del Friuli to Trieste, in a bunch sprint from Italian Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) and American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp). But Yates’ mention by Evans comes after Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director Matt White recently saying he is on the lookout for a grand tour leader and that he has one key rider in mind, and several options.
Evans lauded the Orica-GreenEDGE team for their Giro even though they finished with only two of nine riders – Australian Michael Hepburn and Canadian Svein Tuft.
Tuft rode courageously to finish second last of the 156 survivors at 5hrs 5mins 44secs to Quintana, even appearing in a break on Sunday. But Hepburn, 22, also impressed in his grand tour debut that came in his first full season of road racing. He finished third last overall – in 154th place – at 5hrs 3mins 48secs.
Injury and illness depleted Orica-GreenEDGE, but they starred in the first 10 days.
The team won three stages – the stage 1 team time trial in Belfast, stage six to Montecassino with Australian Michael Matthews, and stage nine to Sestola with Dutchman Pieter Weening. They also held the pink jersey for seven days – with Tuft wearing it for one and Matthews for six until Evans took it for four days on stage eight to Montecopiolo.
Evans also praised Australian Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) for his comeback to "grand tour" from a provisional doping ban after being cleared by the Union Cycliste Internationale for his positive test for clenbuterol at the Tour of Beijing last October.
Rogers claimed two wins – on stage 19 to Cima Grappa and stage 20 to Monte Zoncolan; and finished 18th overall at 48mins 6secs after working tirelessly throughout the Giro for his Polish teammate Rafal Majka who finished sixth overall at 7min 4secs.
“I am happy things turned around for him after all he went through,” Evans said.
“I am happy for him personally, but also just for justice and fairness in the world.”
Meanwhile, Hepburn was not the only Australian grand tour rookie to finish and impress - Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff-Saxo), a late call-up to start the Giro was third in stage 17 to Vittorio Veneto and finished the Giro 91st overall at 3hrs 13mins 23secs.
Other Australian finishers were Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) in 73rd at 2hrs 42mins 36secs, Nathan Haas in 104th (Garmin-Sharp) at 3hrs 34mins 24secs, David Tanner (Belkin) in 130th at 4hrs 7mins 43secs and Chris Sutton (Sky) in 153rd at 4hrs 52mins 49secs.
Rupert Guinness has been covering the Giro d’Italia as a guest of Eurosport. Eurosport covering every stage live on Eurosport Channel 511, Foxtel.