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RENNES, France (AFP) — Orica-GreenEdge sports director Matt White says his riders are keeping their spirits up despite having to reassess their Tour de France aims.
The team started the 2015 Tour in disastrous fashion, losing team leader Simon Gerrans to a broken wrist suffered in a crash on Monday’s costly third stage.
Daryl Impey made it to the end of the stage despite being caught up in the same crash that took down his teammate, but he then discovered he had a broken collarbone and also had to quit the race.
Michael Matthews soldiered on despite being badly injured and has been struggling at the back of the peloton every day since, often losing contact and currently sitting last overall.
Worse news was to follow, though, when Michael Albasini had to quit before Thursday’s sixth stage after breaking his arm in a fall on Wednesday.
Orica-GreenEdge had been expecting to challenge for victory in Sunday’s team time trial but that aspiration has faded.
“I don’t think it’s been too hard to reassess our goals with regards the team time trial, especially now with Michael Albasini out,” said White.
“We were taking it day by day but realistically now we haven’t got a chance to win the time trial with six riders and with some very key athletes out.
“It is what it is, we’ve got to move on and regroup and we’ve got to turn it around as well. Other teams have had bad luck as well; it seems to have hit us harder than anyone else but we’ve been in this situation before.
“We finished with two riders at the end of the Giro last year. We had a little more success at the start of the Giro but it’s certainly not over for us and we’re going to have a lot of opportunities in the future.”
Some might expect Orica’s riders to be downbeat but White insisted spirits are still as high as could be expected.
“The morale is fine, it’s disappointing to see your captains and teammates and roommates go home, all of these guys have worked incredibly hard to be in top condition for the biggest race in the world, so that’s the disappointment.
“But you’ve got to move on, once you start dwelling on what’s been happening in the past, that’s a negative that no one needs to feel.
“The morale in the team is good, they’re not as chirpy as they were a couple of days ago but I think a few riders in other teams that haven’t crashed aren’t chirpy as well.
It’s been a stressful and very aggressive race so far but it’s only just started.”
One of the remaining riders, Luke Durbridge, is realistic, though he is not completely ruling out a tilt at time trial glory.
“With six guys and also one guy hurting, I think it’s definitely going to be hard to compete against a team of nine,” he said.
“We are good at team time trials and we’re definitely going to give it a go but I wouldn’t put us in the favorites.
“It depends on the guys you’ve got. If you remember a couple of years ago [in 2009] Garmin had [Bradley] Wiggins, [Christian] Vande Velde, [Ryder] Hesjedal and five of the strongest time trial guys in the WorldTour and they ran second with five guys.”
In that year’s stage 2 team time trial, Garmin started so fast that four of the nine members of the squad fell off the pace before the midway point of the course, leaving the remaining quintet to go it alone en route to a second-place performance.
“But we don’t have those sort of caliber guys in time trials so it’s going to be hard for us to compete,” said Durbridge.