“The objective is winning stages and to challenge for the overall victory,” said Sport Director Gene Bates. “I don’t want to designate anyone to a purely domestique role in this tour. As a team, we race aggressively. That’s our style. It will be no different at the Giro. When the right opportunity presents itself, we’ll be ready to take advantage of that.”
The eight riders headed to Caserta for the opening prologue are: Amanda Spratt, Emma Johansson, Jessie MacLean, Katrin Garfoot, Loes Gunnewijk, Melissa Hoskins, Shara Gillow and Valentina Scandolara.
“I’m really excited about this group,” said Bates. “Everyone in the whole team has been building up some great form and we have seen that on display at the last couple of races. We certainly will give freedom to everyone to show their hand in search of a big result.”
Emma Johansson elected not to ride the Giro last year and instead came into later season targets fresher. This approach saw her pick up two stages and the overall win at Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt as well as a stage and second plcae in La Route de France. After one year away, the newly crowned double Swedish National Champion returns to the Giro Rosa where she won a stage and finished fifth overall in 2012.
“Emma is good on a variety of terrain,” said Bates. “She is the most versatile rider in the group. We will look to Emma to target specific stages. She could also factor into the overall.”
Shara Gillow took one of her most important wins to date three yars ago at the Giro d’Italia. She spent the stage in a breakaway before attacking on the final climb and soloing to victory on stage two. The stage win earned her a stint in the pink race leader’s jersey. Last year, Gillow posted her best general classification result to date, securing fourth overall after third in the final stage time trial.
“We hope to see one of our riders finish in the top five,” said Bates. “Shara is one of three riders we bring to Italy that could contend overall. We will look to get her to the final part of the race with as little time lost as possible.”
New recruit Katrin Garfoot will make her Giro debut after a strong showing at Giro del Trentino. The one day Italian race was Garfoot’s first with ORICA-AIS, following her mid-season signing the previous week.
“There is a little bit of unknown going in with Garfoot,” said Bates. “I’m not even sure she is aware of the depth of her capabilities. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if we see her right in the thick of the overall action in the last few days”
Loes Gunnewijk will take on the role of road captain in her sixth Giro Rosa start. It’s a role she is comfortable with as the most senior and most experienced member of the Australlian outfit’s squad.
“Loes offers a wealth of expereince,” said Bates. “She’s a natural leader, and she knows what her teammates need from her to help them succeed. She plays a very important role on the road.”
The only Italian on the team is known for her attacking style of racing. Valentina Scandolara starts her home tour with a recent win at the Giro del Trentino Alto followed by second place in the road race at Italian National Road Championships last weekend.
“Working with Valentina is really exciting at the moment,” said Bates. “She is coming off a huge win. The Giro Rosa is the biggest tour we do all year, and it’s in her home country. She is super motivated.”
Jessie MacLean will provide critical support to her teammates in Italy while seeking out opportunities for herself. Although she typically plays a domestique role, MacLean can pack a punch in a small group sprint.
“We will look to utilise Jessie during the first five or six days where there is a lot of flat terrain,” explained Bates. “She can help set up moves and potentially go into breakaways herself.”
Bates sees Amanda Spratt playing a similar role to Jessie MacLean. Where MacLean proves most useful in the flats, Spratt’s assistance is most notable over undulating terrain.
“Spratty is really building well after coming back from the collarbone break,” said Bates. “I think we will see a lot from her this Giro.”
Riding her second Giro, Mel Hoskins starts the Giro Rosa after spending much of the past month in Arizona with the Australian National Track Team in preparation for the Commonwealth Games. Hoskins will be the team’s designated sprinter.
“She’s a prologue specialist and is coming in to look for a top result in the prologue,” said Bates. “Following the prologue, we’ll focus on setting her up for the first five or six days where she can go for the bunch sprints.”
ORICA-AIS for Giro Rosa: