His bid to win stage two didn’t work out due to his crash with Mark Cavendish on the opening leg of the Tour but, according to Orica GreenEdge manager Shayne Bannan, Simon Gerrans could well have a go at taking Friday’s seventh stage of the Tour de France. If that doesn’t work out, Bannan believes Gerrans will have other shots in the days to come; the important thing is that he is almost recovered.
“Simon is getting better day by day,” Bannan told CyclingTips at the stage start in Épernay. “The main concern was the bruising around his ribs, and when he is out of his seat and breathing. He is still not 100 percent, but he will have a good crack at it today and see how it goes.
“We all know to win a stage in the Tour de France you have to be 100 percent, but Simon is a special type of character. He is pretty tough, so we would expect, all things being normal, that he will be around the mark today.”
The stage has just two categorised climbs, the fourth category Côte de Maron and the Côte de Boufflers. Both come inside the final twenty kilometres, but before then the roads are up and down; it is, according to Bannan, a very good opportunity.
“It is a sort of a Milan-Sanremo type finish. Except it is not as long, but then again you have already had a week of racing. So certainly it is one of the stages that we really highlighted before the Tour.”
The team had considerable success during the opening week of last year’s Tour. Gerrans sprinted to victory on stage three, taking the yellow jersey, then the Orica GreenEdge riders defended that in style when they won the following day’s team time trial. Daryl Impey also wore the Maillot Jaune, sharing the attention around.
This year things have been quieter; Impey was a non starter due to a positive test for probenecid, Michael Matthews was forced to withdraw before the event due to a training accident and Gerrans’ crash on stage one has held him.
Bannan says morale remains high, though, and that he and the team are hoping that things are turning around.
“The riders are all good,” he said. “We were really fortunate as a team in the cobble stage. We actually didn’t have anybody fall. We had Matt Hayman fall yesterday but he is okay. Everybody is in great spirits. They have got through the first week extremely well and they are looking forward to the next couple of days.”
One of the riders on the squad is first year pro Simon Yates. He is a strong climber and is looking forward to the chance to show his stuff in the days ahead. Bannan is keen to see how it goes.
“It [the Tour] is just a fantastic experience for Simon. It is his first year as a professional and so he is breaking new ground every day,” he said. “We will just take it day by day with Simon and make good decision when they need to be made.”
Asked to clarify if that means pulling him out of the race before the end, Bannan suggests that could be the case. “Ah, look, we will take it day by day. We will see how he is coping with it all,” he said. “Being so young, you have to be careful with the younger riders. So we will be making good decisions when they need to be made.
“[Before then], tomorrow, Sunday and Monday would be fairly good stages for him. So he will be able to get a really good indication of how he is fitting into the Tour de France level.”
He is seen as one rider who could go on to become a possible contender in future years. Ditto for his brother Adam Yates, who showed his class earlier this year when he won the Presidential Tour of Turkey.
Both brothers and riders such as Esteban Chaves will likely form part of the team’s medium to long term GC goals but, right now, Orica GreenEdge doesn’t have an overall contender. Bannan gave his thoughts on the riders who could win the race.
“Firstly it is sad to see Froome out. But, in saying that, it now gives Richie Porte a fantastic opportunity,” he said. “He is coming to this race as a helper, no pressure, and now he has really got an opportunity. I believe that he is going well enough to podium. So that adds another element to the race.
“Then you have Nibali and his team performing extremely well, and then there is Contador, who I am sure will be very good in the last week. So there is still a lot of racing to come…”
If he has his way, his team will be one of the main animators of the race on the stages which suit their strengths.