Simon Gerrans took the yellow jersey after Orica-GreenEDGE followed his victory in yesterday’s stage by storming to team time trial success in Nice on day four of the 2013 Tour de France.
The Australian team had never won a Tour de France stage before yesterday, and their appearance in the 100th editon of cycling’s greatest race appeared set to be remembered for their team bus causing chaos when it got stuck under the finish line on day one.
However, after Gerrans beat Sagan in a photo finish on stage three, Orica-GreenEDGE snatched victory in the team time trial in a time of 25 minutes and 56 second – just 0.75 seconds faster than world team time trial champions Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
Veteran captain Stuart O’Grady said: “It’s an amazing team, that’s for sure.
“It was an incredible ride and everybody was super motivated today. We just rode an incredibly smooth race.”
Omega Pharma-QuickStep, with Michal Kwiatkowski in the white jersey, set a blistering pace to record a time of 25 minutes and 57 second and set a very quick early benchmark.
The Belgian team, even with two-time world time trial champion Tony Martin battling injury, came in 1 minute and 46 second ahead of Argos-Shimano, the only other team to have finished at that point, and it looked for a long time as though Kwiatkowski would take the yellow jersey.
Lotto-Belisol, on their new Ridley Dean FAST time trial bikes, also set a good pace but could not match the speed of OPQS and finished 16 seconds down in 26 minutes and 13 second.
Garmin-Sharp had high hopes of delivering David Millar to the yellow jersey, 13 years after the first and only time he wore it, but despite, being just four seconds down on OPQS at the halfway mark, their challenge faded and they also finished 16 seconds down.
Team Sky, last year’s team time trial winners, also completed the first half of the course in good time with Geraint Thomas defying his fractured pelvis to put a big effort in for the team.
Having been five seconds down at the split, they rallied to come in just over two seconds slower than the Omega-PharmaQuickStep benchmark, with Edvald Boasson Hagen just missing out on the maillot jaune as a result.
Thomas even performed his duty at the front and only dropped off in the final 1.5km – but his efforts ensured Boasson Hagen, Chris Froome and Richie Porte are just three seconds down in the general classification.
Movistar and Saxo-Tinkoff were the two other well-fancied teams and after Movistar crossed the line 18 seconds behind the leaders, Alberto Contador showed great strength to lead Saxo-Tinkoff into a provisional third, eight seconds off the pace.
With Radioshack-Leopard, protecting the maillot jaune of Jan Bakelants, the last team onto the road, it appeared as though nobody would match Omega-Pharma QuickStep’s pace.
However, Orica produced a superbly paced ride to record a slight negative-split to win by the smallest margin.
Matt White, directeur sportif, said: “It does not get any better than this, that’s for sure. We did not expect it but everyone did their job to perfection.”
Compatriot Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) was unable to challenge the Orica time as his team came in ninth, while Radioshack finished 11th to confirm Gerrans would wear the yellow jersey.
Gerrans said: “It’s the pinnacle of the sport. I’m thrilled to be able to wear the yellow jersey.
“When we all work like that as a team we can do some pretty impressive things.”
Tour de France 2013 – stage four – result
1) Orica-GreenEDGE – 25’56”
2) Omega Pharma-Quickstep +0:00:01
3) Sky +0:00:03
4) Team Saxo-Tinkoff +0:00:09
5) Lotto-Belisol +0:00:16
6) Garmin-Sharp +0:00:16
7) Movistar +0:00:20
8) Lampre-Merida +0:00:25
9) BMC Racing +0:00:26
10) Katusha +0:00:28
1) Simon Gerrans (AUS) – Orica GreenEDGE – 12:47:24 hours
2) Daryl Impey (RSA) – Orica GreenEDGE
3) Michael Albasini (AUS) – Orica GreenEDGE
4) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – +0.00.01
5) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
6) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Team Sky – +0.00.03
7) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky
8) Richie Porte (AUS) – Team Sky
9) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – Team Saxo-Tinkoff – +0.00.09
10) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Team Saxo-Tinkoff