Orica GreenEdge rider distanced by pure climbers on taxing ascent
Orica GreenEdge arrived at the Tour of California with a single man who would be charged with flying the overall contender flag. Cameron Meyer, still on the way back into form following surgery to treat a saddle sore injury earlier in the year, was amongst the select group that finished just behind the opening stage's winner Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM), with anyone not in the 50-odd man group ruled out of the GC fight but it was the near-200km stage to Palm Springs that would reveal the Australian's true position in the standings.
After a little more than five hours in the saddle a lone figure in the shape of Janier Acevedo (Jamis – Hagens Berman) came into sight, winning the stage and taking over the race leadership from the faded Westra who was dropped inside the first kilometre of the climb that averaged almost 10 percent. Meyer had been detached from the elite bunch a little over mid-way up the gruelling Palm Springs Aerial Tramway climb and did his best under the baking Californian sun to cross the line in 10th-place, 1:40 down on the new Colombian yellow jersey wearer.
"I can't say I've ever done 200km with a SRM saying 51-degrees," Meyer said in his team's Backstage Pass. "It was pretty extreme out there, I reckon we all went through about 20 to 25 bidons. I had a good day, I knew I had to limit my losses and maybe I can bring something back in the time trial.
"I'm top-ten at the moment and I think I can move up after the time trial. The boys did a fantastic job dropping me off at the bottom of the climb," he added.
In 2012, while aiming at a GC attempt at the Vuelta a España, Meyer rode to 11th overall at the 2.HC race but this year his ambitions leading into the race were somewhat lofty after missing a large chunk of the early season races due to complications after his surgery.
The 10th-place ride to Palm Springs may at first glance appear to be a blow to his overall chances but with his strength against the clock and a number of the riders ahead weaker in a long individual test like the one to be tackled on Stage 6, it's expected Meyer will climb up the higher rungs of the GC ladder by the end of the week-long race.
"The big objective today was riding for Cam," said sports director Matt Wilson on the team site. "The boys did an awesome job for him. They helped get him into good position before the last climb, which was important because of the heat and difficulty of the climb. He lost 1'40" and with a big time trial coming up that really suits him, we expect him to make some of that time back."
Following the searing temperatures experienced on Day 1, where the Australian ProTeam lost two of its riders Michael Hepburn and Fumi Beppu after missing the time cut, the heat was once again a major factor. Riders and team staff alike were quick to suggest that Stage 2 was one of the hottest days experienced on the bike however, for the Orica GreenEdge squad Wilson added that the team recovered better-than-expected over night and if anything, had improved after the initial shock to the familiar European climate.
"This had to have been the hottest day ever for this tour," he said. "I don't remember anything even as close to the heat we saw today. Fortunately, the boys recovered pretty well from yesterday and even felt a little bit better today. Today's pace wasn't as high as yesterday, which was good for them."
With such a tough opening couple of days to the race Wilson was impressed by Meyer's ride especially given it did not suit the qualities of the former Tour Down Under champion.
"We're very happy with how the day went for us. Cam felt good on the climb. He raced his own pace and was able to get into a good rhythm. He's not a pure climber so he wasn't able to follow the explosive moves, but he did a fantastic job given his qualities."
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