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Orica-GreenEdge manager Shayne Bannan has said that there are three prime opportunities for the team to chase a long-awaited stage win in this year’s Tour, outlining what he said were the best chances.
“I think the most suited days for us now are Sunday’s stage, Tuesday’s stage and Friday’s stage,” Bannan told CyclingTips. “They are the most logical stages for us. We will try to be aggressive and try to go in the other break’s on other stages. But, being realistic, Sunday’s stage and Tuesday’s stage.”
The team notched up two stage wins in the opening four days of last year’s Tour, with Simon Gerrans taking yellow when he sprinted to victory on stage three and then Orica-GreenEdge winning the team time trial. Gerrans’ stint in the Maillot Jaune was followed by team-mate Daryl Impey taking over at the top of the general classification, marking a superb Tour for the team.
This time round things have been more difficult; Impey didn’t start the race due to a positive test for probenicide, top sprinter Michael Matthews was unable to line out due to a training injury, then more bad luck hit the team on the opening day.
“There have been three things; Daryl not being here, Michael Matthews injuring himself in the days leading up [to the Tour] and then Simon [Gerrans] having that fall on the first stage,” said Bannan. “For us, being realistic, the first week is going to be critical. And in particular, having Simon try and get a good placing. He was in a good position to do that until he fell.
“We knew that he was going to be in a stage-winning position on the second day, which would hopefully give us the jersey. Anyway, that’s the way it goes. There have also been a lot of bad luck stories with Froome and Contador and so on…that is just the nature of the sport.”
The pressure is on the team to notch up a stage win, both as a return to its sponsors and also to try to go some way towards approaching what it achieved last time round. Bannan admitted that the riders feel the need to try to live up to what have been achieved in previous Grand Tours.
“After last year and after the Giro this year, it would be nice to get something out of the Tour, for sure,” he said.
Neo pro Simon Yates had a good attempt to chase a stage on Saturday’s 14th leg of the race, getting into the day’s long distance move. He rode well but the break didn’t have enough of a lead at the start of the final climb for him to stay out front until the end; the only rider able to do so was Rafal Majka (Tinkoff Saxo), who soloed to victory.
Bannan said that the ride was nevertheless very impressive. “It is fantastic…when you consider he is just 21 years of age. This is his first Tour de France. It is hard enough for the seasoned professionals to get in the breaks, like Simon achieved. So the experience that he is gaining and the maturity he is showing is very special. He has certainly earned the respect from the guys.”
Yates was a late call-up after the news of Impey’s positive was announced. Bannan said that he has equalled or possibly exceeded expectations.
“We knew he was going to be competitive, otherwise we wouldn’t have sent him here,” he said. “The expectation was really to try to get him in the breaks here. There was certainly no expectation in terms of performance, it was really expectation to gain experience. And I think he’s ticked those boxes.”
He said that Yates has been working hard to glean as much insight as possible into Grand Tour racing. “He is soaking it all in. He has certainly asked all the riders such as Gerrans and Albasini questions.”
As regards the pressure of the Tour, he is impressed with how he has been handling it. “Really well. He is a really mature young guy. I think coming here with no expectations has really allowed him to deal with it quite well.”
One week remains in the race and while the 21 year old was uncertain in the early stages about finishing his first Tour, he considers it more possible now. Bannan isn’t making any predictions about whether or not he will do that, though, preferring to keep pressure off the rider.
“It is too early to say. We will make a decision day by day,” he said. “He is a neo pro, he is only very young. So far he has handled the situation extremely well. But we need to be careful.”