Simon Gerrans has taken the yellow jersey of the Tour de France, 32 years after his first mentor Phil Anderson became the first Australian to do so. His South African teammate of Orica GreenEdge Daryl Impey is on the verge of succeeding to him and become the first-ever African cyclist to lead the world's biggest race the year that Kenyan-born Chris Froome was highly expected to be the one.
Since 2008, there's no more time bonus awarded to the top three of intermediate sprints and stage finishes. Therefore, Gerrans, Impey and their Swiss team-mate Michael Albasini are classified with the same time after they won the team time trial in Nice. Gerrans currently leads the race because of the addition of the places with a total of 32 as he finished 15th, 16th and first in the first three stages in Corsica. Impey is not much further back with a total of 41 after coming 11th, 8th and 22nd successively. Gerrans knows this rule very well as he won the 2012 Santos Tour Down Under over Alejandro Valverde this way despite having clocked the same time.
Logically, Impey should be the lead out man for Matt Goss at the end of stage 5 expected to be a bunch sprint finish in Marseille. Should he be positioned ten places ahead of Gerrans on the results sheet, he'll become the new leader of the Tour de France.
It would be an interesting symbolism for the event on the occasion of the centenary edition, as Marseille is France's city with the biggest African influence. Created by the Greeks and therefore nicknamed 'the Phocaea city', it faces Algiers on the other side of the Mediterranean. North African countries of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia used to be French colonies. When cycling living legend Raymond Poulidor, now 77, fought for France during his military service in 1958, he embarked to Algeria from Marseille's harbor. Due to the French influence on their soil, there have been African participants to the Tour de France even before Australians did it – but not many. Tunisia's Ali Neffati took part in 1913 while the first two men from Down Under, Iddo 'Snowy' Munro and Don Kirkham, lined up in 1914.
It would be symbolic also for Impey to take the yellow jersey in Marseille. Rated as the golden son of South African cycling after Robert Hunter, he tried the hard way to make it as he joined VC La Pomme-Marseille, yet an amateur club in 2005.
Based in Aubagne in the outskirts of the city, he took the opportunity to visit the Tour de France at the start of stage 13 on July 15 in the nearby town of Miramas that year – when Gerrans was making his debut at the Grande Boucle with AG2R and finished third five days later in Revel. Impey was accompanied by his teammate and roommate Dan Martin.
While Martin directly joined the pro ranks at Slipstream from French amateur cycling, Impey was not very successful in France under Frédéric Rostaing who has now made La Pomme-Marseille a valuable continental team – with a South African partnership with Bonitas. He lost his motivation and went back to South Africa prior to finding his way back to the top through Team Barloworld. But he hasn't forgotten Marseille.
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