Orica-GreenEdge saw its best laid plans go to waste on stage 3 of the Tour de France on Tuesday when Matthew Goss was dropped and Simon Gerrans crashed. Michael Albasini finished a fine fifth but the team lost ground to Peter Sagan in the race for the green jersey. Goss currently sits fifth in the standings on 55 points while his Liquigas rival extended his tally to 116 points.
Racing in its inaugural Tour, the Australian team had earmarked stages 1, 2 and 3 as its first winnable opportunities. The team arrived several days before the Tour started and rode reconnaissance on both the uphill finishes on stages 1 and 3.
"It was always going to be a stressful finish. Actually the only thing that wasn't up was the wind today but we knew it was going to be stressful," team boss Matt White told Cyclingnews at the finish.
"Goss lost time and none of the real sprinters picked up points in the finish except for Sagan, so that's going to blow his lead out on the others. That changes things a bit. Gerrans is okay. There was quite a high speed crash but the other problem was that he needed a bike change as well and there were very narrow roads. By the time we got to him he wasn't going to come back."
After Goss's third place in Tournai White had picked his sprint as the team's most likely for today's finish in Bolougne-sur-Mer but his subsequent failure means that the race's green jersey has become a far more difficult aim. However, while Sagan has made the most of the two uphill finishes it's clear he does not possess the same nous or cunning in bunch sprints, as shown by his hesitation and lack of aggression in Tournai.
"We're here to win stages, nothing has changed. There are plenty of stages still to come. Sagan has showed that there's vulnerability with him on the flat stages," White said.
"He can get lost in the finals. He's proved in the uphill finishes that no one can match him but there's no more of them for at least a week. For the flat stages, that's where we can pick up points and if he finishes seventh or eighth. That's what [Mark] Cavendish or Goss are going to have to do if they're going to get anything back on him."
Asked if GreenEdge would resist sprinting in the intermediate sprints in order to save its powder for a bid at winning their first Tour stage, White said, "That depends on how many points are available due to breaks up the road, the hardness of the stage or when the stage is from the finish."
The team have utilised Robbie McEwen's sprint knowledge in this year's race but have also ridden reconnaissance for stage 8 from Belfort to Porrentruy.