By John Trevorrow and Gennie Sheer
Australian Tour rookie Luke Roberts was in a good position to see what happened to maillot jaune Dave Zabriskie in yesterday's team time trial, as he was on the American's wheel. But even Luke couldn't tell exactly what caused the crash.
"It is really disappointing, we just anted to win so badly," he related after the stage. "At the last time check with six kilometres to go, we had five seconds, and we had been as much as 17 seconds up. I was right behind Dave when he crashed, not sure what happened, whether his chain slipped or his foot came out of the pedal. I had to brake to miss him and they opened a gap in front of us.
"I was lucky actually: If Dave hadn't slid away from me I would have come down too, the old track skills came in handy. Two guys fell back because of Dave and we had to get five to the finish line, so I had to try to close the gap again without having the four slow up in front. In the end they hesitated a bit too, which threw us off a bit and probably cost us the stage win in the end. So pretty disappointing to be so close to keeping yellow and winning the stage and then to not get either. Not our lucky day.
"It was all running so smoothly, we were in the lead and we knew it was coming down to the final kilometres and we were strong. I thought we would get there. When they gave us six seconds on one of the last climbs, Jens Voigt put in a couple of pearlers, we were going fast, I knew it was going to be close."
Could it have been the pressure of having Discovery breathing down your neck that caused the crash? "I don't think so, it was just one of those things. I feel really bad for him but that's bike racing. Not much you can say to Dave to make him feel any better.
"The plan was at the start that coming into the last five or ten kilometres or so that wouldn't wait for anyone but Ivan Basso even if Dave flatted. We knew we had to keep going for the time. It was the way we'd planned it from the start. We had ridden the course as recently as last Wednesday and the last few kilometres a second time. This morning we rode another 30 km. The guys at the front had it really well controlled when the crash happened. It would have been great to keep the jersey and in the stage but unfortunately we didn't get either.
"I suppose it takes the pressure off the team not having to control the race at the front, but that's not much consolation. We still have Ivan and Carlos in a good position and we will keep protecting them getting them ready for the mountains.
"Looking back I am sure we would have won. There was that moment of hesitation because it was David but over the radio they said "What are you doing, there is only one km to go." We have to put it behind us now. Bjarne Riis just said, 'bad luck, you did a good job'."
This morning before the start of Stage 5, we spoke to Roberts again, asking him how he backed up after yesterday. "I feel all right - I certainly feel better than Dave. He's lost a lot of skin but nothing's broken and he seems okay."
What was Bjarne's reaction yesterday? "Bjarne came in straight away and congratulated us on doing a good job, and made the point that we probably needed a little bit of luck as well on that stage when it just wasn't there for us."
How do you rate your own performance? I was really good along the first 40 kilometres where it was flat along the river. That suited me well and was really like one big teams pursuit, but once we hit those climbs towards the finish Jens and Bobby were really strong and that hurt me quite a bit. But I stuck in there and stuck with them and on the descent into town did what I could to hang on for last couple of kilometres.
What's the plan now for CSC? "Our job is to look after Ivan and Carlos (Luke's Tour room mate) and keep them well protected in the next few hectic bunch sprint days. But having said that, I'm 17th on GC so maybe a breakaway is an option for me. We also have Jens and Kurt who can play the breakaway card and perhaps CSC might get back the jersey but that will depend on what Discovery has in mind."