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Simon Gerrans has said his chance of taking the yellow jersey on the opening weekend of the Tour de France has evaporated following his crash on the finishing straight on Saturday, but the Australian said that, injuries permitting, he will still try to contest Sunday’s second stage.
The Orica-GreenEdge rider was poised in a very good position as the sprint opened, but Mark Cavendish appeared to move suddenly to the left and to try to push Gerrans out of the way.
The latter was shunted to the left but had nowhere to go due to Europcar’s Bryan Coquard being in that space. He and Cavendish came down heavily, and Gerrans ended up walking back to his team bus with a badly torn jersey and visible abrasions to his body.
“The objective today was to place as highly as possible to really set up a GC move on tomorrow’s stage,” he told a small group of media outside that bus. “I was right up there with the best guys and I think even inside the last 250 metres I was there for the win.
“I was feeling really good, the guys did an awesome job of putting me in the right place. I was just about to open my sprint up and then a couple of us got tangled up. I am not exactly sure what happened, but it is a pretty disappointing way to finish a stage.”
As Gerrans walked back to the bus a battered looking Cavendish rode past, his right hand off the bars and held tightly against his body. The body language of the Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider appeared to suggest he had a broken collarbone, although hospital scans later ruled this out.
He spoke very briefly to Gerrans; it was impossible to hear what was said between them. However he later accepted blame and said that he would personally apologise to the Australian.
Quizzed on the particulars of the crash several minutes after it occurred, Gerrans appeared reluctant to blame anyone. His answer on the subject was both diplomatic and guarded.
“I haven’t seen the replay yet but no doubt it will be replayed over and over again. Until I see that, I can’t really comment on what happened,” he said.
Pressed on whether or not he knew Cavendish was to his right, he confirmed that he did. “Yes, I knew Cav was there,” he said. “I was on Sagan’s wheel in the last few hundred metres. I think I was in the ideal position to be sprinting for the win.
“I am not sure where he [Sagan, who was second – ed.] finished, but like I said I was just about to open my sprint up when we got tangled up.”
A Dutch journalist suggested to Gerrans that Cavendish was leaning into him. The Australian refused to take the bait and allocate blame. “Like I said, I haven’t seen what happened yet. In these finishes everything happens so quickly,” he said. “So I am not really sure what happened. I will be checking it out when I get back to the hotels.”
Gerrans made clear before the race that he had a plan to take yellow for the second successive year. The first part was to finish to the fore on stage one; the second was to try to win stage two. The combined countback should, he reasoned, give him the accumulated placings to take over the yellow jersey.
Falling heavily and then crossing the line 177th has put a spanner in the works; unless he wins with a time gap on Sunday, an early stint in the Maillot Jaune appears to be out of the question.
“Apart from the fact that nothing is broken, it is probably the worst way we could have possibly started the stage,” he said. “Obviously we will be on bunch time but a long way back in the placings. So the yellow jersey is definitely going to be out of our reach now, unfortunately.
“Like I said, I am going to be pretty stiff and sore for the next couple of days. So it is a bit of a disappointment.”
That disappointment is compounded by the fact that he was riding strongly on stage one. “I was feeling really good today. I was feeling pretty comfortable,” he confirmed. “It was a fairly solid stage. It looked like quite a few of the sprinters were pretty nailed coming into the finish, but I was feeling quite good. So I was pretty hopeful to get a good result.”
He said that he expected to be stiff in the morning, but that he hadn’t given up all hope of taking the stage.
“I think I am going to be pretty sore tomorrow. I am have lost quite a bit of skin off my back and my hips and stuff,” he said. “But the main thing is nothing is broken, so I will be on the start line tomorrow and we will see what we can do.
“I think I will definitely be going for it. But I’m not quite sure how much today’s crash has taken out of me. We will probably just have to see on the road tomorrow.”
The Tour’s second stage takes the riders 201 kilometres from York to Sheffield. The trek between those two locations has been likened to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which Gerrans won in April. It includes nine categorised climbs, ranging from fourth to second category, and many ruptures in the peloton are possible.
Also see: Cavendish suffers separated shoulder, will apologise to Gerrans for causing crash