It was almost another day of textbook execution for Orica-GreenEdge at the Tour Down Under as the team appeared on the cusp of a second straight stage win, following on from Caleb Ewan’s victory, only for a crash in the final 500 metres of stage 2 to bring down Daryl Impey and Simon Gerrans.
The team has spent the majority of the race on the front, with Michael Hepburn and Luke Durbridge, controlling affairs and keeping the time gap to lone leader Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) manageable.
The crash didn’t affect Gerrans’ time, courtesy of the inside three kilometre rule, but he did miss the opportunity to contest for bonus seconds on the line. A minor consolation for Gerrans was that he picked up five bonus seconds earlier in the day and now sits third on GC, five seconds in arrears to stage winner Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff).
"The stage was really going to plan, the guys rode the near perfect race for us. They dragged that break back so we could do the intermediate sprint where I won it and Caleb was second before Adam obviously slipped away," Gerrans told reports from the team bus. "We were able to take some more valuable seconds at the next sprint and then coming into the finish the guys were exactly where they needed to be, we were really well placed and Daryl was about to go around the group and open up when someone hit the wheel in front of him and just fell straight in front of him.
"So he went down, and I went over the top with nowhere to go. All’s not lost for the day, we picked up a valuable five seconds on the road but I am bitterly disappointed that we didn’t finish off the teammate with a win at the end of the stage."
Gerrans endured a horror run of crashes and broken bones last season but explained he knew there was no major damage from this crash, merely losing some skin.
"No not at all, as soon as I picked myself up again I knew that nothing was severely wrong," said Gerrans if he feared for the worst. "Obviously I asked Daryl how he was straight away and he seems to be fine. Onto the next stage now…"
Having picked up the five bonus seconds courtesy of canny riding, with Gerrans and his teammates all held up by the crash, they were powerless to stop the likes of McCarthy, Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) and defending champion Rohan Dennis (BMC) from gaining time.
"It’s not ideal but credit to Rohan, he rode strong in the finish there. He’s not an overly quick guy so he’s obviously in good shape," he added of his rivals. "I think you look at the guys who were up in the finish there, we obviously knew Jay and Rohan were in good shape with their rides at the national championships and Ulissi showed that he is good shape as well."
Having won the race on placings in 2012 and by one second in 2014, Gerrans knows the Tour Down Under is a race decided by the smallest margins. A point he referenced before adding that there is still four stages to come.
"Every second is important and it’s unfortunate that I conceded some time to Rohan and the three guys who were on the podium today but it’s still a long way to go. I think what I was able to do on the road today, I only poked my nose in the wind for a few metres there. The way the whole team rode, they are making my life as easy as possible so I can’t thanks them enough for their work."