There are no gifts, or so they say. A sentiment that Orica-GreenEdge's Matt White echoed as Daryl Impey pulled on the maillot jaune at the Tour de France, slipping on the jersey after teammate Simon Gerrans lost his lead due to a split at the end of stage 6 in Montpellier.
White, who returned to directing duties at the team in June following the Vance report, praised Impey, who made history as the first African rider to wear the Tour's yellow jersey.
Impey had the chance of moving into yellow on stage 5 but heading into stage 6 he only had to finish eight places ahead of Gerrans to do so. The split that separated the field made sure of that with Impey leading the race with a three-second advantage over Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen. Gerrans, who earned the lead after the team time trial in Nice, now sits in third, a further two seconds back.
"It was actually Simon's idea," White instantly said when asked about the change in race lead.
"For him [Gerrans] it's two days or three days in the yellow jersey but for Daryl Impey it's going to change his life."
"It was Simon's idea," he repeated. "They're good mates and that's the sort of team we are. Simon just asked me if it was okay to give the jersey to Daryl tomorrow, and I said it was no problem at all," he added, surely aware of the added publicity a change in leadership will bring for the team and the race as a whole.
However, White was keen to stress that yellow hadn't been a gift, and that Impey, who had been in the Continental ranks less than two years ago, had earned the right to lead the race.
"People who would say that it was a gift have probably never done a sprint at the Tour de France before," White said.
"It's very hard to be in that position and if you look at the positions that Daryl has finished in so far in the Tour, it's not easy to hold that position in the sprints. He certainly wasn't gifted the yellow jersey, he had to earn it. To earn it you've got to have the balls to stay up there in a very hectic final."
Impey moved to Orica GreenEdge at the start of the 2012 season, before that riding for Netapp and MTN-Qhubeka after a fallow season with RadioShack in 2010.
"Daryl has been one of the finds for us. When you look where he was 15 months ago, racing the Tour of Morroco, to jumping to Netapp and then us picking him up, he's developed an incredible amount. He a very versatile rider and a super teammate. We've re-signed him for a couple more seasons and hopefully he can finish his career with us."
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