Harrogate: When – or if – Orica-GreenEDGE get to savour victory in the Tour de France this year, the taste will be even sweeter in light of their nightmare last week.
After having to announce that South African teammate Daryl Impey had tested positive in a drug test that ruled him out of selection for the Tour and sprinter Michael Matthews had to withdraw before the race began; the team then saw their main leader, Australian Simon Gerrans, have his hopes of winning stage one swept from under him in a crash for which British sprint star Mark Cavendish took the blame.
“Things can only get better can’t they? It’s been a rough week for sure,” Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director Matt White said. “Anyone who has been around this sport knows things can change very quickly – positively and negatively.”
And as negative as Saturday’s crash was, White was still able to see a positive from it.
“Fortunately for us, Simon has walked away from it, which is a very lucky situation for us because Simon’s Tour is not over when it could easily have been over,” was White's rationale.
On a day that saw astonishing crowds line the route of the 190-kilometre stage from Leeds to Harrogate in Yorkshire, the high speed crash occurred just inside the last 250 metres as Gerrans and Cavendish were positioning for their sprints.
The stage eventually saw German Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) win from Slovakian Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp).
If there was any silver lining for Gerrans, it was that he was able to confirm that he would continue in the Tour on Sunday with the tough and hilly 201-kms second stage from York to Sheffield that would normally suit him.
“I was right up there with the best guys and even inside the last 250, I was there for the win,” Gerrans said as he returned to the team bus with his national champion’s racing jersey and shorts shredded and his helmet cracked open.
“I was feeling really good and the boys did a great job in placing me in the right place. I was just about to have my sprint up and then … a couple of us got tangled up.
“Apart from the fact that nothing is broken it’s possibly the worst way we could have started [the Tour]. I am going to be pretty stiff and sore the next couple of days.
“I’ve lost quite a bit of skin off my back and hips and stuff. But the main thing is that nothing is broken, so I’ll be on the start line [again] and we will see what we can do.”
Cavendish conceded that the crash, while accidental, was his fault. Television images appear to show him leaning into Gerrans on the Australian’s right just as it happened. While x-rays on Cavendish's right shoulder showed he did not sustain any fractures, he did suffer ligament ruptures with an AC-joint dislocation which has ruled him out for the rest of the Tour..
Cavendish said he would seek out Gerrans to take accountability for causing the crash. "I'm gutted about the crash today,” Cavendish said. "It was my fault. I'll personally apologise to Simon Gerrans as soon as I get the chance. In reality, I tried to find a gap that wasn't really there. I wanted to win [the stage], I felt really strong and was in a great position to contest the sprint thanks to the unbelievable efforts of my team. Sorry to all the fans that came out to support – it was truly incredible.”
The story Run of misfortune to make a Tour de France victory sweeter for Orica-GreenEDGE first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.