Orica-GreenEdge took their second stage win in two days at the Tour de France to put Simon Gerrans in the yellow jersey with a blistering performance in the team time trial around Nice.
It rounded off a brilliant two days for the Australian team, who in only their second Tour rode a technically perfect team time trial around the tight and twisty streets in the south of France.
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” directeur sportif Matt White said afterwards. “Today was a bit of a surprising victory. But everyone did their job to perfection. We only just did it, but we did it.”
Half of Orica’s team is made up of former team and individual pursuit riders, and their skill paid off. “You couldn’t give away any time on that course,” White said. “Technically they nailed it.”
This was definitely not a straight forward team time trial. Run through suburban city roads the riders had to hold their speed along narrow roads and through multiple corners and bends. Each of the 22 teams rode in a line, rather than a rotating chain. Riders had to be smooth and fast through the corners so as not to let gaps open up, although even Team Sky, who are well drilled in this discipline, let a few small gaps creep in.
Orica made the fewest mistakes on the course and in doing so set the fastest-ever average speed for a Tour team time trial, pipping Omega Pharma-QuickStep by less than a second. Sky were a further two seconds back and their ride gained more plaudits for Geraint Thomas.
The Welshman sustained a small fracture in his pelvis after crashing on stage one and has been suffering ever since. Today he stayed with his team mates and took his turns on the front until the final two kilometres where he finally swung off.
Thomas is reportedly feeling better with each passing day, good news for Chris Froome who will need him when the race hits the Pyrenees at the weekend.
One not so fortunate rider was American Ted King (Cannondale), who was deemed by the race jury to have finished outside of the day’s time limit. King had ridden the stage on a road bike after suffering from a separated shoulder in a crash on the race’s opening day. He lost contact with his Cannondale team-mates in the first kilometre of the TTT.
Aussie Aussie Aussie
Gerrans, who won yesterday ahead of Peter Sagan, was one of eight riders poised one second behind leader Jan Bakelants (RadioShack) in the general classification. For much of the race it looked like Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s young Michal Kwiatkowski was going to pull on the yellow jersey as they sat atop the leaderboard.
Team after team came in, narrowly missing the time of Mark Cavendish’s squad, including Sky who were just two seconds off their pace. Lotto-Belisol had ridden above expectation, while surprising for the wrong reason were Garmin-Sharp.
Their experienced Briton David Millar was one of the eight riders being talked about as a potential yellow jersey wearer after today’s stage as the American team’s pedigree in team time trials is second to none. As the fixed TV camera tracked their progress up the finish straight the clock slowly ticked by. The distance distortion made it look like they were set to beat Omega-Pharma, but they trailed in around 16 seconds down on the Belgian team, and surprisingly ended up out of the top five.
Only Orica could beat the Omega time, an effort that put Gerrans into yellow, the sixth Australian to pull it on. Perhaps more importantly the teams success over the last two days means they won’t remember the 2013 Tour as the bus one.
Stage four podcast
Tour de France 2013, stage four: Nice-Nice 25km TTT
1. Orica-GreenEdge in 25-56
2. Omega Pharma-Quickstep at 1 sec
3. Team Sky at 3 secs
4. Saxo-Tinkoff at 9 secs
5. Lotto-Belisol at 17 secs
6. Garmin-Sharp at 17 secs
7. Movistar at 20 secs
8. Lampre-Merida at 25 secs
9. BMC Racing at 26 secs
10. Katusha at 28 secs
Overall classification after stage four
1. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge in 12-47-24
2. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge at same time
3. Michael Albasini (Sui) Orica-GreenEdge at same time
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quickstep at 1 sec
5. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep at 1 sec
6. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky at 3 sec
7. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 3 sec
8. Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky at 3 sec
9. Nicolas Roche (Ire) Saxo-Tinkoff at 9 sec
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Saxo-Tinkoff at 9 sec
Simon Gerrans, happy in the yellow jersey