Belgian team goes close after powerful TTT performance
The Omega Pharma-Quick Step team was second to start the Nice team time trial and sat for an hour in the podium area near the finish, hoping they had ridden fast enough to have won the stage and put Michal Kwiatkowski in the lead of the Tour de France. Their hopes and dreams ended when Orica-GreenEdge beat them by less than one second, with Simon Gerrans pulling on the yellow jersey.
Kwiatkowski had to be happy with another day in the best young riders' white jersey, while his teammates could only quietly ride back to their team bus, leaving the podium area for Orica-GreenEdge to celebrate a second consecutive historic day for the Australian WorldTour team.
Mark Cavendish did not talk before the stage or afterwards, but Tony Martin, who had fought the pain of his crash injuries so he could play his vital role as the big engine of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team, insisted he was not held back by the wounds from his stage 1 crash.
"I wasn't hindered by my injuries," Martin said bravely after his ride, despite a thick dressing on his back and his body dotted with scars.
"Our team was strong in general. There were no weak elements. The pace never really dropped back. It's about seconds on this course. How a corner was tackled can be decisive then."
Gert Steegmans was hoping to celebrate victor on the podium with his daughter. "Shit happens. We were just a little too slow..." he said honestly. "But what's a second. It's really sad. I would have loved to be on the podium with my daughter."
Directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters was convinced the team could have found a decisive second or two if they had started later and so known other team's time splits. They started second after several riders lost time due to crashes during the open three stages in Corsica.
"Where did we lose it? Maybe in Corsica. If we hadn't been one of the last in the team standings then we wouldn't have been one of the first to start today. We didn't have split times of the competition. Orica-GreenEdge had that and could give it to their riders. Those small things can make the difference."
Team manager Patrick Lefevere was gutted to have missed out on the stage victory. "It's one of the biggest disappointments in my career of 30 years. If we would have won during the past few days would have been forgotten but now we're back in the ropes."
Technical manager and team time trial specialist Rolf Aldag took was more philosophical. "That's sport. At the end of the day, what can we blame? Tony's crash? Niki Terpstra's crash yesterday? I'm sure every team can find reasons why they lost a few seconds," he told Cyclingnews.
"Hindsight is a great thing after the race. You can always say we started too slow or too fast. There are too many ifs that you have to accept it."
"It's not a total disaster… We lost by one second. We were close and we have some explanations and it's not that were not good enough. We have the horsepower and the skills but didn't get the result. We're just missing a bit of luck and so I'm sure it will come over time and in this Tour."
Time for Cavendish and the sprint stages
Omega Pharma-Quick Step will now focus on trying to win sprint stages with Mark Cavendish in the flat stages across the south of France to the Pyrenees. The Manx sprinter has finished a course of antibiotics and revealed he is feeling better.
Wednesday's 228.5km fourth stage from Cagnes-sur-Mer to Marseille is largely flat, with only the Col de la Gineste, 12k from the line, a possible launch pad for attacks that could derail Cavendish and Omega Pharma-Quick Step hopes of success in a sprint finish.
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