For Simon Gerrans (Sky) the Tour de France has not panned out quite as he'd planned. The loss of Bradley Wiggins to a broken collarbone on stage 7 forced Sky to completely rethink their tactics for the second two weeks of the race. While it has been a massive loss, the team's revised stage-win focus has allowed Gerrans a little more freedom to ride for his own back.
"The day after [Wiggins' crash] we had a meeting and we said we need to put that behind us and focus on what's ahead – there was still a long way to go in the race," Gerrans explained to Cyclingnews of the race-altering incident. "Since then we've focused on being much more aggressive in the race."
As a team, Sky have embraced their new race strategy, featuring in every key move off the front since.
Xabier Zandio, Juan Antonio Flecha, Geraint Thomas and Edvald Boasson Hagen have all put themselves in moves; the one man conspicuous by his absence being Gerrans. The Australian hinted that his chance may be just around the corner.
"It's not from lack of trying," Gerrans admits. "If you look at the race so far there's really only been two days where getting in a break has been really worthwhile - and we had guys in both of those moves [Flecha on stage 9 and Boasson Hagen on stage 13]."
Of those two days, stage 13 may well have played out differently had fortune favoured the Australian. Boasson Hagen and Gerrans featured in a number of moves before the race-deciding break, featuring the Norwegian went clear.
"[We] were both really active at the start of that stage - he [Boasson Hagen] ended up getting in the right move and went up the road on that day. It's not that I've been sitting at the back of the bunch sitting on my hands. I have been active, and the team's been active," Gerrans continued. "And that's going really well, I think - the ‘Plan B' if you like for the team [after losing Wiggins] of being in breaks and going for stage wins."
Finding the move that sticks
While the team has been in the breaks, a move from Sky is yet to define a stage. Gerrans is an experienced hand when it comes to reading the race and making the right moves - he's earmarked stages 16 and 17 as near certainties for breaks to succeed.
"I'd say there are really only two really good chances for breakaways - and those are the two days following the rest day. Again we'll be doing everything we can to get ourselves in one of those moves - and hopefully I can get in one that sticks this time."
"Following those two days we've got two really critical mountain days [Galibier and Alp d'Huez], and the way the GC is panning out those two days are going to be really critical for the guys on GC to make an impact and make a move," Gerrans continued. "The way the race situation is I'd be surprised if those days end in breaks, so it really comes down to [today] and Sestrières in my eyes."
Gerrans did reconnaissance of the stage over the Italian border to Pinerolo before the Tour and that may give the Australian that little edge he needs to repeat the success he had on Prato Nevoso in 2008. With a bit of luck may be able to, but he certainly wasn't pre-empting anything.
"No day in the Tour is easy - even if you're not in the breakaways or you're not riding for GC. But I got through the Pyrenees really well - I'm looking forward to the last week of racing."
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