Orica-GreenEdge won the Stage Four Team Time Trial at the 100th Tour de France, earning the race leader’s yellow jersey for Simon Gerrans, who got the Australian team its first Tour stage victory the day before.
Stage Four’s route was mostly flat and mostly straight, emphasizing teamwork over climbing or cornering ability, and Orica had the best teamwork, getting their fifth rider across the line to stop that clock at 25:56 for the 25-kilometer stage.
“It was a fantastic team effort,” Gerrans told Eurosport.com. “Eveyone committed 100 percent today, as they did yesterday, and it’s fantastic that today we get rewarded with a team win and the yellow jersey to top it off.
“We might not have been the favorites coming into the stage but I knew there weren’t many weak links in our team—it’s a very even group with a few strong guys. Everyone stuck to their role and when you work like that as a team you can do some pretty impressive things.
“It’s the pinnacle of the sport to get the yellow jersey; so few guys have had that honor. There’s every opportunity to keep it for the next couple of days and we’ll do our best.”
The race was ridiculously close, with Omega Pharma-Quickstep finishing just one second behind the Australian squad, with Sky just three seconds back and Saxo-Tinkoff, nine.
The win gave Orica the top three spots in General Classification, followed by two Omega riders and three from Sky. GC favorite Chris Froome of Sky is only three seconds behind the leader, while his main rival, Saxo-Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador, is twelfth, nine seconds behind Gerrans.
World Team Time Trial champions Omega Pharma-Quickstep started second set a mark worthy of their title. Most of the big teams: Garmin-Sharp, which won the 2011 TTT, Sky, Saxo-Tinkoff all came close, but it looked as though Omega’s time would hold.
Orica was two seconds behind the Belgian squad at the halfway time check, and pulled out 2.75 seconds over the rest of the route.
This is the best possible outcome for most teams. None of the real GC contenders wanted to lose any time, but none of them wanted the yellow jersey this early in the Tour.
The team which holds the yellow jersey is expected to defend it, and neither Sky, Saxo, or BMC wanted that responsibility, preferring to save some energy for the crucial final stages.
With this win Orica gets the satisfaction of wearing the yellow jersey, while Chris Froome and Alberto Contador are separated by only six seconds. Garmin-Sharp’s Ryder Hesjedal and Andre Talansky or 17 seconds back with BMC’s Tejay Van Garderen and Cadel Evans 26 seconds behind the leader.
A Long, Lumpy Stage Ahead
Stage Five is almost a stretched and flattened version of Stage Three, and the same riders will likely be contesting the finish.
The stage is the longest so far, at 228.5 km, and includes four categorized climbs, but they are not challenging climbs: a Cat 3 followed by three Cat 4s. An uncategorized hill peaks 12 km from the finish; the rest of the route is downhill into Marseille.
With GC as tight as it is, and with so many riders hoping to take a stage win, it is unlikely that a breakaway will survive, though equally likely that many riders will try. The hills aren’t steep enough to weed out the big sprinters, but there might be enough of them, coupled with the length, to give some of the lighter sprinters a chance.