All In for Daryl Impey on Penultimate Stage of Tirreno-Adriatico

Tue 12 Mar 2013

While the penultimate stage of Tirreno-Adriatico may have unfolded fairly close to plan for ORICA-GreenEDGE, the difficult day of racing turned the race on its head for several overall contenders. Cold, wet weather and a jagged profile combined to create an epic day of racing. Daryl Impey shined over the undulating roads. With support in the break from Stuart O’Grady, Impey was one of the last men standing from an early escape group.

“I’m still pretty buggered,” admitted Impey, nearly 30 minutes following the conclusion of stage six. “Today was the sort of day where you have to keep your head on the whole time. I could only go so fast up these steep grades. It was about finding a way to keep pushing and pushing. It all went according to plan until that last little steep climb at the end. That’s where I lost it.”

“I’m happy with the way I raced,” he added. “I never gave up. I kept going and going until I had nothing left. When you’re on empty, there’s nothing you can do. I gave it everything I had until the very end.”

The team plan centered around Impey today with his remaining teammates all in with their support for the South African. Svein Tuft had fallen ill overnight and could not take the start. Both Matt Goss and Brett Lancaster withdrew with racing underway.

“Svein was up for a good ride in the time trial tomorrow, and it’s shame he’ll miss that chance,” said Sport Director Neil Stephens. “We pulled Lancaster because of the ongoing knee injury, and with Gossy it was more of a precautionary measure because of the weather. He’s been going well here. It was great to pull off the stage win and see that his preparation is on track. We knew he wouldn’t be up for the win today, so we erred on the side of the caution when the weather turned.”

The weather forecast had called for rain and cold. The team was surprised to awaken to sunshine.

“Yesterday, we knew that it would be a bad day today in terms of weather,” noted Stephens. “When we woke up, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We thought maybe they had gotten the forecast wrong. Halfway through the stage, the weather blew in suddenly. It got cold quickly as the rain fell. The boys where shivering and shaking. It made a hard profile even harder.”

Before the rain, there was the break. Ten riders escaped from the bunch, and ORICA-GreenEDGE missed the move.

“The ten went up the road, and when it became clear that they were the early break, another eight went over to them,” explained Stephens. “Daryl and Stuey were part of the eight to join the original breakaway. That group slimmed down slightly and then split in the last hour.”

O’Grady dedicated himself to Impey in the break.

“It was really good having Stuey with me,” said Impey. “He gave me a lot of good advice and looked after me. That definitely paid off well for me in the end.”

“Stuey gave it all for Daryl,” added Stephens. “We knew today’s finish would be selective, and we also suspected it might not be a bad day for a breakaway. When the ten were up the road, Stuey said to Daryl ‘Alright, here we go’ and brought him across. He gave him full support until the break shattered.”

The escape group eventually settled into a rhythm with 16 riders looking to stay away from the peloton led by Team Sky. Impey and O’Grady were among good company with Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard-Trek), Rinaldo Nocentini, Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Lars Boom (Blanco Pro Cycling), Tom Dumoulin (Argos-Shimano) Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida), Giovanni Visconti and Benat Intxausti (Movistar Team), Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Angel Vicioso (Katusha), Mauro Finetto (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), Matthieu Sprick (Argos-Shimano), and Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil-DCM) as breakmates. The group opened up a three minute lead before the first time up the Muro di Sant’Elpidio. The 27% gradient featured three times on a day that included two passages through the finish before the stage’s end.

The break shattered the second time up Muro di sant’Elpido. Cunego and Dumoulin made it over the top together. Impey, Visconti, Intxausti, Selvaggi and Martinez made their way back to the two leaders. Together, the seven riders set their sights on stage victory.

The last time up Muro di Sant’Elpidio proved decisive. The lead group exploded up the climb.

“The television cameras missed our moment,” noted Stephens. “They showed Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) going over the climb. Then, they showed the next one. They panned away after that. Next over the top was Daryl. He was the fourth rider over that climb.”

What remained of the peloton was scattered across the road following the final ascent. Sagan and Nibali worked together to put distance between themselves and the variety of chase groups forming behind. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) bridged across to the two race leaders. The trio would go on to contest the finish with Sagan taking the stage win, Nibali moving into the race lead and Rodriguez jumping up the overall standings from seventh to third. Impey came to the finish with the third chase group in 22nd place, 1:56 behind the stage winner.

“Tomorrow I’ll wear my national champ kit for the first time,” said Impey. “It’s a bit of a reward for getting through the stage. What a hard day! A lot of guys didn’t finish. I gave it my best, and I’ll give it my best again tomorrow. It’s the last day. Just nine kilometres left. I want to give it a good effort to finish off the week.”