Just after Simon Gerrans earned the Australian Orica-GreenEDGE team its first stage win in the Tour de France, a principal player in setting up the Victorian for his moment of glory, teammate Daryl Impey, said with a sigh: ”Definitely the monkey is off our back now.”
The South African rider’s words summed up much about the Orica-GreenEDGE team’s short tenure in the top division of world cycling.
While it impressed in its first year as a first-division ProTeam licensed squad with its 33 wins last season, it still disappointed by failing to claim a stage victory in last year’s Tour, and by falling short of its ambitions in this year’s one-day European spring classics and also the Giro d’Italia in May.
The second-year team has won many races this year, but doubts about its strength in the majors had been building – even though the squad conceded recently it should consider having (or developing) a rider who could compete for overall honours in the years to come.
But by Gerrans beating Slovakian Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Spain’s Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) to win Monday’s 145.5-kilometre third stage from Ajaccio to Calvi, the team silenced its detractors.
And as the Tour transferred from Corsica to Nice on the French mainland, for the 25km stage-four team time trial, it was clear Gerrans’ joy for the win was shared by teammates such as Impey.
Orica-GreenEDGE had hoped to set up Impey for the yellow leader’s jersey after starting the day in fourth overall at one second to Belgian Jan Bakelants (RadioShack).
But when Bakelants was still riding strong near the end, Gerrans appeared their best stage-winning hope. ”Once Bakelants was there, we rode for ‘Gerro’,” Impey said. ”It was roles reversed [to stage 2], but he pulled it off; better than I did [with eighth on stage 2].”
Stage3 unfolded perfectly for Orica-GreenEDGE. Australian Simon Clarke got into the day-long break to give Gerrans a chance to rest in the peloton, as Clarke’s presence in the lead meant they had no need to chase.
”It is always good to have someone represented [in the break]. ‘Clarkey’ did a good move that took the pressure off us right away,” Impey said. ”We didn’t really have to chase – only at the end [after Clarke was caught], when that small move split off the front. But all the boys were committed. We could not have asked for more.
”The win has taken the pressure – not that the pressure is off – but the monkey off our back now. And it is nice to get the win early on in the Tour.”
There was no understating Clarke’s role. Clarke, the King of the Mountains in last year’s Vuelta a Espana, said his presence in the early break ”was to take the pressure off the team so ‘Gerro’ could sit back, relax and come up with a good sprint, and it worked perfectly”.
But as Clarke added, making a breakaway group in the Tour is not an easy task, especially in the first week when most riders feel strong.
”You have to use your nose and go with the feel and sit back,” he said. ”If you go with every single attack … there’s no way you will get in a breakaway. I got in four breaks in the Vuelta last year, so I kind of got it down pat and figured while it doesn’t go the same way every time, at least you get that feel of it.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.