Orica Greenedge were certainly the best team of the start of the Tour a year ago when they won the team time trial and helped Simon Gerrans collect the yellow jersey in stage 4.
While the team has changed quite a lot within a year, fielding 5 debutants, the goal remains roughly the same.
Given the profile of this year's second stage between York and Sheffield, described as a remake of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Gerrans is again looking to top the GC, having won the 100 the edition of the Doyenne this season.
“The goal for the team is to walk away with a stage win,” summed up sport director Matthew White when he unveiled his team's line-up for the three weeks ahead.
There has been a last minute change of plans for the Australian outfit when Michael Matthews was finally forced out of his first Tour de France after crashing in training and coming to Leeds with stitches to his arm.
But White, who suffered a similar misfortune ten years ago, insisted the gameplan remained roughly the same.“The replacement changes a little bit our plans. But we were not coming to target the bunch sprints at the Tour de France anyway,” he added.
As for late replacement Christian Meier of Canada, who will make his Tour debut, White described him as a “super super domestique”. More precious help for Gerrans in his quest for another yellow jersey.
The legendary stage of the north of France including some cobbled sections has seen the abandon of defending champion Chris Froome who has crashed on two occasions... before the pavés. On a rain soaked day of racing, Lars Boom took a valuable victory in Arenberg-Porte du Hainaut, Vincenzo Nibali retained and increased his lead in the overall ranking while Alberto Contador lost more time than most of the other GC contenders.
Stage 5 started in the presence of King Philippe of Belgium, former Prime Minister Yves Leterme and Eddy Merckx who flagged off the race and paid tribute to the victims of World War I in Ypres. Soon after the start proper, Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R) accelerated but it was an attack by Rein Taaramäe (Cofidis) that generated the first breakaway. Those two riders were joined by Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Tony Martin (OPQS), Janier Acevedo (Garmin), Tony Gallopin (Lotto), Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Simon Clarke and Matt Hayman (Orica) to make it a nine-man front group. They eventually lost Acevedo due to a crash and Burghardt who was called back by his team to race as a helper for Tejay van Garderen and Greg van Avermaet.
Already affected by a crash in stage 4, defending champion Chris Froome (Sky) went down again at km 29. Escorted by four team-mates, the Brit made his way back to the bunch but that was only one of many crashes on wet and slippery roads even before the race hit the cobblestones sections. He crashed again and called it a quit at km 83, indicating that his right arm was injured.
After reaching a maximum advantage of 3.05 at km 60, the breakaway riders were chased down by several teams, the most active being Peter Sagan's Cannondale as the race approached the pavés. Several GC contenders like Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) were forced to ride behind the peloton to come across. The second cobbled section at Ennevelin saw Alberto Contador losing contact to the yellow jersey group. Nibali and Sagan together with a dozen of riders caught the remaining breakaway riders with 26km to go.
From a group of 15 riders who took the lead with 25km to go and included Nibali, Fuglsang, Westra (Astana), Sagan (Cannondale), Boom, Vanmarcke (Belkin), Kwiatkowski, Renshaw, Trentin (OPQS), Gallopin (Lotto), Cancellara (Trek), Lemoine (Cofidis), Clarke, Hayman and Keukeleire (Orica), Lars Boom marked the flying trio of Astana and rode away solo in the last cobbled section. Nibali made a huge impact on the race and gained almost three minutes over Contador while challengers Andrew Talansky (Garmin), Rui Costa (Lampre), Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) limited the damage at about two minutes, as well as Richie Porte who became the new captain of Team Sky after the sad exit of Chris Froome from the Tour de France.
Meh, this year is pretty disappointing I must say. The early stages were pretty intense, but it fell off from there. Also my favourite rider, Wiggo, isn't even riding in this years TDF. Chris Froome is out and same with Contador. Marcel Kittle's performance was outstanding in the early stages as well.
Meh, this year is pretty disappointing I must say. The early stages were pretty intense, but it fell off from there. Also my favourite rider, Wiggo, isn't even riding in this years TDF. Chris Froome is out and same with Contador.
Yes, many riders have dropped out.
As I type, there are only 5 (out of 22) teams complete with 9 riders each; and they are:
3. AG2R-La Mondiale
5. Bretagne-Séché Environnement