Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) was left thinking what could have been after a finish-line crash at the end of stage 1 of the Tour de France stopped him from taking - what his team believe was - a clear-cut chance for victory. Gerrans was focusing on the line and suddenly found himself hitting the tarmac hard as the riders came around the final bend.
"I'm not exactly sure what happened in the crash. I'll be watching the replay when we get back to the hotel. I think it will be replayed a few times. It's pretty unfortunate to get tangled up to a crash like that at the finish," Gerrans told reporters after he had been back to the bus to assess his injuries.
Gerrans had been about to launch his sprint for the line when he was sideswiped by Mark Cavendish, who later admitted that he was going for a gap that didn't exist. Cavendish was left with a separated shoulder, while Gerrans suffered nothing more than some abrasions. The Australian national champion counted his lucky stars that it wasn't worse, but was still hugely disappointed. "I will be a little stiff and sore tomorrow, and I've lost a bit of skin, but thankfully I am in one piece," he said.
"I was feeling really good today, feeling pretty comfortable. It was a fairly solid stage and it looked like the sprinters were pretty gnarled coming into the finish. I was looking forward to getting a good result."
Even if Gerrans had not managed to take the victory on stage 1, the top placing would have put him in prime position for the yellow jersey on Sunday. The nine climbs between York and Sheffield mean that the pure sprinters, such as Kittel, are unlikely to make it to the finish with the front group. The team admit that a second year in yellow is now unlikely for Gerrans.
"Normally it's out of reach. For him to have to win the yellow jersey, he would have to win solo because he finished on the same time," said team manager Matt White. The odds-on favourite to take yellow on stage 2 is Peter Sagan (Cannondale), who finished second to Kittel in Harrogate.
Gerrans' crash is another in a long list of trials and tribulations for Orica-GreenEdge. On Wednesday, it was announced that Daryl Impey had been suspended by the team, after testing positive for Probenecid. Michael Matthews then had to put his Tour de France debut on hold when he crashed during training, and had to have stitches in his hand.
Despite yet another knock, White remains confident about the team's chances at the Tour de France. "Things can only get better," he laughed. "It's been a rough week, on a few different fronts, but tomorrow's another day.
"Fortunately for us Simon has walked away from it, which is a very lucky situation for us. Simon's Tour is not over, which it could have easily been for us. Witch would have been a disaster.
"We'll just take one day at a time. Michael Albasini finished 10th today, so that gives us a good option for tomorrow. We'll just have to see how Gerro pulls up in 24 hours."
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