Chasing Le Tour: Gerro takes yellow

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Although Orica-GreenEDGE has won more than 50 races in the past year and a half, few (if any) were as significant as Simon Gerrans’ win into Calvi yesterday. But today the Australian squad did what nobody predicted, making it back-to-back victories with a win in the team time trial and putting Simon Gerrans in the yellow jersey.

Before yesterday’s stage Simon Gerrans was sitting in sixth place in the general classification (only 1 second back) and his stage 3 win in Calvi moved him up into third place. When Orica-GreenEDGE posted the fastest time in the stage 4 team trial, nudging out reigning world champions Omega Pharma Quickstep by one second, Gerro leapt to the top of the GC.

So what next? I spoke to Orica-GreenEDGE general manager Shayne Bannan after the win and asked him what this does to the team’s plans for the next few stages. He said, “it definitely changes our plans, but in a good way!”

Sports Director Matt White said Orica-GreenEDGE wants to keep the jersey as long as possible, unsurprisingly, and by my reckoning that looks to be achievable for stages 5, 6 and 7. Gerro only has to stay in contact with the top GC contenders on these flat stage finishes which shouldn’t be a problem.

But it will be on stage 8, the first summit finish, that the likes of Froome, Contador and Evans will come out and it’s not often that we see Gerrans climb with those guys. But we’ll wait and see. Being in yellow can inspire a rider to perform above and beyond what we’d normally expect.

As far as tomorrow’s fifth stage goes, Orica-GreenEDGE goes in with two goals. “Gerrans will be one of two protected riders”, Matt White said after stage 4. “Tomorrow we go back to targeting a result for Gossy [Matt Goss]. We’ll look after Simon at the same time.”

Stage 5 features four categorised climbs but with a flat run in it’s likely to end with a dash from the fast men.

“Other teams will want to keep the race together for a bunch sprint, so we’ll have help there”, White said. “Ideally, we can take the yellow jersey all the way to the Pyrenees but we’re taking it one day at a time.”

In other news, it wasn’t exactly a banner day for race officials. Tony Martin was fined 2000CHF for having rainbow stripes on his bike for the TTT (even though he’s the current world TT champion, and was on the winning team for the world TTT championships).

And Cannondale’s Ted King was shafted by the race officials (governed by the UCI, not ASO), being eliminated from the race for not making the time cut, even though it’s unclear what was being used for timing since King didn’t have a timing chip on his bike.

King crashed on stage 1 and separated his shoulder and at the last moment chose to ride a standard road bike for the TTT because of the discomfort. He was obviously dropped but continued to ride alone and apparently missed the official time cut by seven seconds (he still pushed 365 watts over 32 minutes).

Tour de France time cut rules are not set in stone and exceptions are often made. Despite protests from his Cannondale team, and support from other riders in the peloton, the race jury refused to budge.

Until tomorrow, thanks for reading and be sure to check out the following photos from the stage 4 team time trial.

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