There was poor luck, some even worse timing, but no bad calls. That was the message transmitting from around the Team Sky bus as the team licked their wounds at the end of stage 2 of the Tour Down Under.
The British team came into the race with Sergio Henao their designated leader but a series of mishaps stunted his progress on the climb to Paracombe and although he finished in the second main group of favourites he now lies 15th overall, and 29 seconds off Richie Porte's (BMC Racing) commanding lead. Like the rest of the favourites dispatched by Porte on the final climb, the overall jersey looks out of reach, but the chance to make the podium remains.
Henao's troubles began before the final climb of the stage when he had a front flat. A quick change courtesy of his cousin's wheel ensured that the damage was limited. However when Henao punctured for the second time – this time it was his back wheel – he was forced to change bikes.
Coming at such a critical time in the stage, with the peloton racing full tilt towards the final climb, Henao was forced into a frantic chase. Team Sky dropped back in stages to help their Colombian but by the time he regained contact he was almost a spent force. He hung to a group of leaders but was unable to respond when Porte rode out of sight.
"We just started the descent of Norton Summit and he had a front wheel puncture. Seb Henao changed that for him because it was the worst place for a car to be because it was all strung out. Then he had a rear wheel puncture so he had to change his bike. It's all timing," Team Sky director Brett Lancaster told Cyclingnews at the finish.
"We had Danny van Poppel there and the boys did amazing to get him back on. The whole team committed and I called Geraint Thomas back in the end, who could have been top ten himself, but Sergio is our man here. It was bad luck at the wrong time. His biggest effort came before the climb. That's cycling. What do you do?"
Only Thomas and the rest of the team will know if the Welshman could have matched Porte when the Australian accelerated away from the field but Lancaster stressed that even though Henao had made a huge effort to join the peloton, there was no possibility of changing tactics mid-stage.
"I'm not going to say what we said on the radio but I made a decision and Geraint is fine with that," he told Cyclingnews.
"There was a chance Sergio could have recovered a bit and been top three. It's one of the calls that you have make on the road and I stick with it.
"I'm not going to say you can't win from here. Nothing is impossible. We have Danny here for the sprints and they suit him. We'll go with him and it's a bit of an aggressive race for us. We can still go for a stage win at Willunga with Sergio. He might be a bit angry and motivated now."
As the Sky riders came over the line Thomas, who finished 43rd on the stage, stressed that although Porte had a healthy lead in the race the podium was still within touching distance for Team Sky.
"It was the worst timing [with the puncture]. The race was on and all the boys committed fully. I was the last to drop back when Sergio was maybe five cars off the back. After 20 kilometres of chasing he was bit gassed and I made sure that I didn't surge but it was a frantic final. Then he lost my wheel going into that final kicker. We all committed to him and he's only three seconds off the podium. With bonuses and Willunga, there's still a lot to play for."
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