ORICA-GreenEDGE Defends Yellow Jersey on Tour de France Stage Five

Wed 3 Jul 2013

The sixth Australian to wear the yellow jersey retained the Tour de France race lead in Marseille. Crossing the line on the same time as stage five winner Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step), Simon Gerrans remains tied on time with teammates Daryl Impey and Michael Albasini, 1” ahead of Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step).

“A main objective today was to keep the yellow jersey,” said Sport Director Matt White. “Whether it stayed on Simon’s back or went to Daryl didn’t come into consideration at all. Our normal plan was to lead out Gossy [Matt Goss] for the sprint. With Impey as last lead-out, there was a good chance he would take over the yellow jersey from Simon if the sprint played out as we hoped.”

Six riders broke away early in the stage and built up a 13’ advantage before the mid-point of the stage. Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar), Kevin Reza (Europcar), Romain Sicard (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) initially collaborated to build up their enormous lead.

“Because the highest placed rider in the break was Arashiro at 3’40, we didn’t have to catch the break to keep the yellow jersey,” explained White. “We let the gap go out and rode a steady tempo until it hit the ten minute mark. We started to chase a bit more seriously at that point. Other teams helped us bring it back after the feed zone.”

Argos-Shimano, Lotto Belisol, Cannondale and eventually Omega Pharma-Quick-Step lent a hand with the lead work in the final two hours of racing. The break splintered with Delaplace and Sicard rejoining the bunch. The slow but steady chase turned frenzied as the gap clocked in at over 5’ at the 40km mark.

“It was a long, hard day today,” said White. “I was a little surprised that we didn’t have more help coming from other teams who thought they had a chance in the sprint.”

The rolling stage contained four ranked climbs plus several uncategorized uphill sections. White had hoped Goss would stay in contact with the bunch over the undulating roads. It was one climb too many for the Australian sprinter who fell of pace on the Cote de Bastides as the gap tumbled and the speeds increased.

“Gossy had a bad moment on a climb and was dropped 20km from the finish,” said White. “When we lost him for the sprint, we put all our energy into looking after Gerro position-wise in the finale. A lot can go wrong at the end of the stage. The boys helped keep him out of trouble.”

A large crash in the middle of the field disrupted the chase and took down Daryl Impey. The South African suffered no injuries and quickly rejoined the bunch.

“He banged his knee a little bit but was totally fine other than that,” said White. “Before we even got to him, he was back on his bike and chasing hard.”

The peloton overtook Arashiro and De Gendt shortly after passing the 10km banner. They swallowed up Reza and Lutsenko in the 5km that followed.  With the bunch back together, the sprint trains jostled for position on the front. ORICA-GreenEDGE attended to the yellow jersey.

“After we hit the 3km mark, we could breathe a small sigh of relief,” noted White. “From that point on, we knew Gerrans, Impey and Albasini would be awarded bunch time. We only had to avoid crashes from there.”

Two hundred metres from the finish a pile-up spread across the road, claiming a large number of victims and blocking the rest of the peloton from reaching the finish line. Gerrans and Impey managed to avoid the incident, finishing in the Cavendish group.

“It was a monumental day for the team,” said White. “You know, we thought we might have a chance to get the yellow jersey in Corsica, and we put a lot of effort into the first three stages. We didn’t anticipate winning the time trial. It’s really been a dream come true. Seeing Simon in the yellow jersey this morning was pretty surreal and watching the team work to protect it all afternoon was very, very special.”