Australian hopes to stay out of trouble
Simon Gerrans (Team Sky) resembled a boxer or street fighter who'd been on the end of a good beating in Cambrai on the morning of stage four of the Tour de France.
The Australian rider’s movements were slow and deliberate, and his face bore witness to some of his injuries: four stitches in his cheek, and extensive bruising around a particularly nasty black eye.
But there was more. "I lost a fair bit of skin down one side," said Gerrans, who seemed, nonetheless, keen to accentuate the positive. "I've still got one side to sleep on," he shrugged.
Still, it was no surprise to hear race radio report that Gerrans paid a visit to the Tour doctor during the stage. And, at the finish in Reims, he was one of the most relieved to have remained upright, for the first time since Sunday’s first stage.
"I've had tough couple of days," he said, "but I'm still here. I'm just going to try and take it easy for the next couple of days, and stay out of trouble. Then hopefully I can be a good help to Brad [Wiggins] in the mountains."
Gerrans’s first crash was on Monday, as the field descended the Stockeu, where Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and numerous others also fell off. "About a third of the bunch came off I think," said Gerrans. "I was near the front, about fifth wheel, and I didn't hit anyone - I just touched my brakes slightly and went straight down."
Then, on Tuesday’s cobbled stage, Gerrans was up-ended in even more dramatic style, in a crash that was captured by the TV cameras. "The bunch slowed right down and I didn't see them slow straight away, because I was looking around for Michael [Barry] and Bradley," said Gerrans.
"When I turned back round I saw them slowing down and hit the brakes pretty hard. I went up on the front wheel, and then I got hit from behind, and that tipped me right over. I hit the deck pretty hard, and it all happened so fast, so I didn't get a chance to stick a hand out or anything like that. I landed straight on my head."
Although Gerrans was one of the victims on Monday, he didn't support the decision to neutralise the stage. "I wasn't part of [the decision] and I didn't really agree with it," he said.
"There are two ways to look at it, but I really feel for Thor [Hushovd, Cervelo Test Team], who had his guys on the front all day long. It was an ideal day for him to take some points, so I can understand his disappointment."
Other than his crashes, and his injuries, Gerrans added that he is happy with how the first week has gone for his new team. "Tuesday’s stage went off to a tee for us. It worked out really well, and, although I was a bit knocked about and couldn't help much, the other guys did a good job of looking after Brad.
"G [Geraint Thomas] did a great ride. He’s giving us a little hint of what he’s capable of. He’s put out such impressive times on the track, and I think he has the makings of a future star."