Crash-wracked Orica keeps upbeat in Tour

After four stages, Orica is down two riders and has several injuries, but that's not dampening the plucky Australians' optimism.

Photo: AFP

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AMIENS, France (VN) — Australia’s Orica-GreenEdge team has seen better days in the Tour de France. In 2013, it won two stages and held the yellow jersey. This year, it is struggling after losing two men to a massive crash and seeing four others injured.

Michael Matthews, who won stages in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, is “busted up” and suffered to hang on to the race as it headed toward Amiens in Northern France on Wednesday. That is better than Simon Gerrans and Daryl Impey, who are now watching from home with a broken wrist and collarbone, respectively. Michael Albasini also went home after after finishing stage 5 with a broken left arm.

All the team’s cyclists — except for Adam Yates, Pieter Weening, and Svein Tuft — went down in a massive crash, 55 kilometers from the finish Monday. The same incident sent yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) flying and saw him abandon that night after finishing the stage.

Orica often dominates the opening days of grand tours. In the Giro d’Italia in May, it won the team time trial and stage 3, and held the pink leader’s jersey with Matthews, Gerrans, and Simon Clarke. Instead, this Tour start has been dismal.

“We haven’t packed our bags to go home!” Sport director Matt White told VeloNews. “The next target? We need to wait and see.”

After the stage up the Mur de Huy in Belgium on Monday, Gerrans and Impey packed their bags. It was Gerrans’ fifth crash this year. This time, White said that he has two fractures in his wrist.

The situation looks serious for a team, but its easygoing Australian attitude came through even on a rainy Wednesday morning before stage 5.

“The atmosphere wasn’t too bad the other night in Huy. It’s been a horrible year for ‘Gerro,’ but he’s going to bounce back,” said White, referring to Gerrans.

“Obviously, it was disappointing to have the guys out of the race, but it’s sport. You have to adapt to it. The teams that adapt to it best are the successful ones.”

If Matthews pulls through, he could compete for Saturday’s stage win on the Mûr de Bretagne, along with Simon Yates. The team time trial the next day was also high on Orica’s list.

“We are a good TTT team with or without Simon Gerrans and Daryl Impey,” White continued.

“It doesn’t help our chances to have seven [now six riders after Albasini’s abandonment], but other teams have to get there as well. A good example is when with Garmin in 2009, Astana beat us to second. We had five riders left after 11 kilometers over a long time trial. It’s not to our advantage, but we are still going to go for it.”

The Tour’s cyclists travel to the south of France by airplane on Sunday evening while the rest of the caravan drives the 750 kilometers Monday. After the transfer, the race restarts with the high-mountain passes through the Pyrenees.

White said he wants to use Adam and Simon Yates to make the escapes and to win stages. Simon Yates, only 22 years old and in his second year as a pro, bounced back after crashing on Monday and finished eighth behind winner Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha).

“The kid has some form; it’s very exciting for us,” White said. “It’s a great sign for three-week tours, a great sign for any bike rider.”

Orica is down, but it is far from giving up on the 2015 Tour de France. White added, “It’s all going to be manageable, we have to take it day by day.”

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