Orica-GreenEdge have taken a severe battering over the opening five days of the Tour de France. The team are already down to six men after Simon Gerrans, Daryl Impey and Michael Albasini all went home with broken bones, while Michael Matthews struggles on despite a restricting rib injury. The team had been hoping to bring in the victories during the first week in both the sprints and Sunday’s team time trial.
Despite losing two riders in the large crash en-route to the Mur de Huy, the Australian outfit still harboured hope of putting in a good time trial. With Albasini sent packing after breaking his arm during stage 5 that has now been thrown out the window. “We were taking it day by day but we haven’t got a chance to win the time trial with six riders and some very key athletes missing,” said directeur sportif Matt White at the start of stage 6.
The team has had some great success in recent years, winning two stages in 2013, including the team time trial, and spending a total of four days in the yellow jersey. Earlier this season they had four days in the Giro d’Italia’s maglia rosa and claimed a stage victory with Matthews. Despite the disappointment early on, White is trying to remain positive.
“Other teams have had some back luck but it seems to have hit us harder than most but we’ve been in this situation before. We finished the Giro with two riders last year. We had a little bit more success at the start of the Giro but it’s certainly not over for us. We’ve got some more opportunities for the future,” said White. “It’s very disappointing but it’s only stage 6, not 18 or 19 we’ve got a lot more opportunities. When they’re going to come I don’t know but we’ve got take it day by day.”
Of the riders who have been forced out of the Tour de France, Gerrans has seen a specialist today (Thursday) and is due to have surgery on his wrist. It’s only then that the team will be able to assess the full extent of his injury and how long his absence will last. White expects that Impey will be back racing next month, while Albasini will have to take at least three weeks off the bike.
Among the riders that remain, it is Matthews and Pieter Weening that have won an individual Grand Tour stage. Svein Tuft was part of the team time trial winning squads at the 2013 Tour and 2014 Giro. Adam and Simon Yates are the team’s best hope in the mountains but with this being Simon’s second Tour and Adam’s first, they are still learning the tricks of the trade.
Matthews, who is making his Tour debut also after a crash forced him out last year, remains their best hope at success and White believes that he can hold on and challenge for a stage win in the latter part of the race. “He should have started last year’s Tour de France and now that he’s got here, ok he hasn’t had the best of luck, but he’s not going to go home,” said White.
“Like all rib injuries, it’s about the pain you can tolerate. Sometimes small fractures are better than contusions. He’s just going to have to deal with the pain but he’s worked so hard to get here, he missed last year’s Tour de France and he doesn’t want to wait another year… When his opportunity will come I’m not sure but I think in the second half of the Tour he’ll have some opportunities and let’s hope that he can heal up.”