Toughest test over for sore ORICA-GreenEDGE bodies at Tour de France

Tue 7 Jul 2015

ORICA-GreenEDGE started a tough stage four of the Tour de France with some sore bodies courtesy of the nasty crash that took down five of the team’s riders yesterday.

It was to be a tough test as the longest stage of the three-week Tour, with the added complication of 13.3km of cobble sectors. They may not have finished in the front of proceedings; but that they all did in relatively good condition was a win in itself.

The Australian outfit started the day two men down following the withdrawal of Simon Gerrans with a broken wrist and Daryl Impey courtesy of a fractured collarbone.

Of those remaining, Michael Matthews was the biggest concern, suffering from injured ribs that were causing considerable pain breathing.

The 25-year-old finished 16:53minutes down on solo winner Tony Martin (Etixx-Quickstep), but without any doubts of completion.

“It’s really hard to say (how hard it was),” Matthews said. “I think my ribs jumped in and out of place a few times there.”

“It was a real big struggle to get through today but I was able to have Pieter Weening around me, keeping me motivated through the stage and also through the cobbles. It was nice to have him supporting me and helping me get through the stage.’

Also involved in the crash, Simon Yates and Michael Albasini too got through what sport director Matt White said would be the toughest test.

“Today wasn’t the ideal day after yesterday, with the injuries we were carrying through,” White said. “But they actually came through better than I expected.”

“Michael Matthews was obviously in a lot of pain, along with our other guys, but they got through in big groups, they were never in any danger of missing the time cut and they’re all in one piece so that is a win for today.

“You don’t want to be carrying injuries over pave but tomorrow is a flat day and that gives us another day to recover. We are going to need another 24-36hours to see what happens after that.”

At 223.5km, stage four from Seraing to Camvrai was the longest stage of the three-week Tour and featured 13.3km of pave.

There was no doubt the stage could have come at a better time for ORICA-GreenEDGE as three riders nurtured wounded bodies for the previous day’s nasty crash.

Thankfully, the peloton was relaxed as they began what was another stressful day on the road.

They allowed a group of four to grow out to an advantage of almost nine minutes in the first 45km of racing without resistance or reaction. It gave our, and many other, sore bodies a chance to work into the race.

Once the reaction came, the advantage dropped quickly, as teams began positioning into the largely anticipated cobbles.

The quartet maintained a narrow advantage over the first set of cobbles in the middle of racing, whilst the peloton negotiated it cleanly and in one group.

The gap hovered around two or three minutes but was dramatically reduced again in the approach to the consecutive pave sectors in the last 50km of racing.

When they began the first of six sectors, the gap was just 20seconds. By the second, it was back together at the front.

The general classification favourites came to the fore, the most notable Vincenzo Nibali, but the race didn’t split up as much as many predicted.

In the final, a depleted group exited the final pave sector together before Martin put in a solo attack with three kilometres to go, surviving for stage honours and to claim the yellow jersey.