CALVI, France (Reuters) – Two days after getting embarrassing exposure at the Tour de France when their bus caused mayhem, Australian team Orica-GreenEdge were in the limelight for a good reason when Simon Gerrans won the third stage with a well-timed sprint on Monday.
Australian Gerrans beat pre-stage favourite Peter Sagan of Slovakia and Spain’s Jose Joaquin Rojas at the end of a 145.5-km, hilly trek from Ajaccio through impressive scenery along the Corsican west coast.
Gerrans’s win, his second in the Tour after he took the 15th stage in 2008 and his team’s first, came two days after his team bus got stuck under the finish line’s overhead banner minutes before the fast-approaching peloton reached the end of the first stage.
“It was definitely a bizarre day (on Saturday). Nobody in the team, or in the world, expected it. Afterwards we saw the footage of the bus stuck at the finish line. You really can do nothing but laugh at the situation,” Gerrans told a news conference.
“(Our driver) did a fantastic job, we are proud of him. He was embarrassed so we felt quite sorry for him.”
Belgian Jan Bakelants retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey when he finished in the leading bunch after his RadioShack-Leopard team controlled the pace in the final part of the stage.
“This year I was targeting the first part of the Tour de France. I put all my faith in Daryl (Impey), he’s one of the best leadout men. I was looking after him yesterday, he was looking after me today,” said Gerrans, who won the Milan-San Remo classic last year.
“He delivered me inside 200 metres from the line. I really wasn’t sure who won. I’m happy I finished it off.”
Chris Froome’s Sky team mate Geraint Thomas, riding with a small fracture in his pelvis, struggled all day near the end of the pack but finished inside the time limit, 9:15 off the pace.
The second-category climb to the Col de Marsolino, 15 kms from the finish, was too much for the sprint specialists, including German Marcel Kittel who lost his green jersey for the points classification to Sagan.
Australian Simon Clarke capped a remarkable day for Orica-GreenEdge when he was voted the most aggressive rider of the stage after spending most of his time in the day’s breakaway.
It was a quiet day for the big guns, who seemed happy to stay calm ahead of Tuesday’s fourth stage, a 25-km team time trial in the streets of Nice that should produce the first gaps between the pre-race favourites.
“To be honest, I expected a much more nerve-wracking stage today because of the narrow and tricky roads but the peloton was in total control and our guys were in the front of the pack to support Alberto (Contador),” said Fabrizio Guidi, sports director at Contador’s Team Saxo-Tinkoff.
“Now, it’s time for the team time trial and we’ll give full gas on the course. We know the riders are fit, they’re extremely motivated to do well but how far that’s going to take us, only time will tell.”
(Editing by Clare Fallon)