It was a less than stellar start to Circuit Cycliste Sarthe for ORICA-GreenEDGE as four of the team’s six riders hit the deck inside the final two kilometres. Defending champion Luke Durbridge, Aidis Kruopis and Michael Hepburn escaped relatively unscathed while Sam Bewley bore the brunt of the damage and was taken to hospital. Because the crash occurred after three kilometres to go, Durbridge, Kruopis and Hepburn were awarded bunch time, keeping all three riders in contention for the overall.
“Today would have been a good opportunity for Aidis,” said Michael Hepburn. “We were setting him up for the sprint when the crash happened. We missed that chance today, but other than that, what happened doesn’t change much. Our ambitions are still the same. We’re all still on bunch time, and that’s important for us ahead of the time trial tomorrow afternoon.”
The peloton enjoyed a relatively calm start to stage one with three riders escaping from the bunch and FDJ taking control of the chase.
“It was pretty relaxed today,” noted Hepburn. “A couple of riders went clear straightaway, and there wasn’t much pressure on the peloton with the composition of the group. FDJ took control from go and did the bulk of the work. Halfway through the stage, Svein [Tuft] and Cam [Cameron Meyer] went up to contribute. Basically it was just the two of them and FDJ keeping the break at three minutes most of the day.”
A finish circuit played host to the stage finale. The three rider escape group entered the circuit with a 1’15” advantage over the peloton to mark the start of the first of four 6.7 kilometre laps.
“The loop at the finish was run on fairly narrow roads,” said Hepburn. “The boys did a great job keeping in good position. The break was brought back with five kilometres, and from there, we were planning on helping Aidis in the finish.”
Bewley was leading Durbridge, Hepburn and Kruopis towards the front of the peloton when the crash knocked out all four riders.
“I’m still not exactly sure what happened,” said Hepburn. “It was a big crash with about 25 guys going down. Aidis and I were okay, and Luke was mostly caught behind more than anything, but Sam didn’t look too good. He immediately said his shoulder hurt.”
“I’m fine,” he added. “Aidis and I were pretty lucky. We lost some skin and were caught up in the chaos of it all, but it wasn’t too bad. Sam was third in that last corner, and he ended up going down quite hard.”
While the team is disappointed to miss a chance to contest the sprint and eagerly awaiting updates on Bewley, they remain committed to the team’s original objectives.
“We have several guys who can give it a good go in the time trial tomorrow,” said Hepburn. “Of course, we have to get through the morning road stage first. In terms of goals for the overall, they’re still our goals. If there’s the chance, we’ll try again for Aidis in the sprint tomorrow morning and see how things shake out after the time trial in the afternoon.”
Update: X-rays confirm that Sam Bewley has broken his collarbone. The break will require surgery sometime in the next few days. Wish Sam well on Twitter at @sambewley.