Orica GreenEdge were all smiles after Simon Gerrans pipped Peter Sagan to the line and won stage three of the Tour de France in Calvi.
It was a first stage win for the Australian team in their second ever Tour, but was doubly welcome after they endured a torrid time on Saturday when their team bus became wedged under the finish line gantry in Bastia, the resulting chaos blamed for a major crash which ripped through a confused peloton baring down on the scene.
All that could be forgotten last night, however, as the team celebrated Gerrans’ unexpected victory, edging Cannondale’s favoured Sagan to the line by less than a quarter of a wheel.
“I guess I surprised quite a few people a little bit today, including myself,” Gerrans said.
“I knew there weren’t too many sprinters left in the front group. Peter Sagan is a guy who can often climb with the best climbers and sprint with the best sprinters so I’m really thrilled to be able to beat such a classy rider in a sprint finish like I did today.”
It was a brilliant move from Daryl Impey which catapulted Gerrans to the front and Sagan could not find enough of a response.
“I could see him just on my shoulder coming up behind me,” said Gerrans, celebrating his second career Tour victory after winning stage 15 back in 2008.
There was some consolation for Sagan, who wrestled the points leader’s green jersey he won last year from the shoulders of stage one winner Marcel Kittel thanks to another second place.
“I’m happy to put (the green jersey) onto my shoulders,” Sagan said. “We know it’s going to be hard to keep it, but that’s what we’re going to try and do.”
Movistar’s Jose Rojas was just behind in third while Michal Kwiatkowski, wearing the white jersey of the best young rider, beat BMC Racing’s Philippe Gilbert to fourth.
Missing from the sprint was Mark Cavendish, who endured another difficult day and finished in a group nine minutes 15 seconds back.
Irish duo Nicolas Roche (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) and Dan Martin (Garmin-SHARP) had no problems on yesterday’s 145 kilometre run, however, Roche crossing the line in 23rd with Martin 69th, both in the same time as stage winner Gerrans.
Roche is now 11th overall, just one second off race leader Jan Bakelants (Radioshack-Leopard), with Martin up to 59th overall, also one second off the leader.
Today’s fourth stage sees the riders return to mainland France where they’ll tackle a 25-kilometre team time-trial that is expected to shake up the General Classification considerably.
Roche and Martin’s teams are both exceptionally good at this discipline and they’ll be expected to move further up the standings today.
Meanwhile, Sky’s chances suffered a blow with the news that Geraint Thomas is racing with a broken pelvis. The Olympic champion is seen as a key man for the team and his absence, if he does abandon will hamper Chris Froome’s overall chances.
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