By Anthony Tan in Karlsruhe
So far, the Tour de France has been quite an experience for young Aussie all-rounder Simon Gerrans. When Cyclingnews asked how his week's gone, the first thing he commented on was the incredible speed of the first hour of racing, which has mostly been completed at around 50 kilometres an hour.
"I was coping really well until yesterday," Gerrans said with his typically boyish grin before the start of the seventh stage in Lunéville. "I thought yesterday would have suited me, but I basically didn't have good legs. That last climb [Côte de Maron], I went out the back and didn't even look like getting back on."
Such is the life of a neo-pro in his first Tour de France, but for the 25 year-old Victorian, it's not all bad. Team manager Vincent Lavenu has given the entire team a large degree of freedom, and like many teams without a general classification rider, placing themselves in the right move is the number one priority over the next two and a half weeks.
"Most of the team is looking for that kind of move, actually, except Jean-Patrick [Nazon], since he's there for the sprints. The rest of us, if we can get in a break and take a big chunk of time, that's definitely what we want to do.
"Any one of these days, a break is going to go and get a big chunk of time, so Vincent says it's pretty important to have someone in that - that's what he's been saying all along. If a group of 10 guys goes away, we've got to have someone in there, because it could take 20 minutes," he said.
So is Gerro looking forward to some long days in the mountains in the fortnight ahead?
Before answering that question, he peered out towards the gloomy skies above him... "I'm looking forward to a bit of sunshine, actually," he joked. "But no, next week will sort of calm down a little bit; the guys racing GC will be going flat-out, but the guys that aren't will be looking for an easy ride, so in that respect, the race will settle down a bit."
One guy who doesn't mind a bit of bad weather is Lance Armstrong, who looks fairly set to win his seventh straight Tour, but Gerrans added that it's not over till the fat lady sings in Paris. "I don't think the race's over until we hit Paris. But he's [Armstrong] looking pretty strong. It's my first Tour, so it's hard to compare him to the past few years, but he's looking pretty good so far," he said.