Australian Simon Gerrans fell victim to the combined force of a few begrudging teams riding on the front of the chasing bunch on the 10th stage of the Tour de France Wednesday.
Gerrans, one of only two Aussies left on the race following Sunday’s disastrous eighth stage, is riding this year in the hope of getting team leader Christophe Moreau on to the podium for the first time in his career.
It’s a tough ask, but with Moreau in the form of his life Gerrans’ chances at personal glory are at a minimum.
On Wednesday’s long 229.5km stage, as the peloton’s big favourites decided they would be resting after three tough days in the Alps, he seized a rare chance at getting into an early breakaway on one of the few stages left before the yellow jersey battles resume.
However his early attack with five other riders after just two kilometres was stymied by three teams who appeared to be in no mooed to let them go.
Gerolsteiner, Cofidis, and above all Bouygues Telecom were prominent in chasing down Gerrans’ group, which had built a maximum lead of just 1min 20sec by the 24km.
Thirteen kilometres later, they were reeled in.
“I tried to get into a move right after the start. There were six of us, but there were a couple of teams who missed it and who wanted someone there so they chased us back down again,” said Gerrans.
“We’re been going for a GC (general classification) result, so the first week was pretty laid back for us, we weren’t trying to get into any breakaways or anything like that.
“But now Christophe is in a pretty good position,” added Gerrans, who feels Moreau, in sixth place overall at 3:18 behind race leader Michael Rasmussen, has a chance of a podium place.
“Since day one our goal’s been for a podium finish for Christophe, and it’s still our goal now.
“He’s still in a pretty good position at the moment going into the Pyrenees and the two time trials, so the feeling’s still pretty good in the team.
“On the stage up to Tignes he was obviously one of the strongest guys there, he showed his form. Yesterday (Tuesday) he might have paid for it a little bit, but he’s still within striking distance.”
The yellow jersey battle is far from over, and Saturday’s first major time trial of the race will likely give a glimpse of who will win this year’s race.
And the Pyrenees could give Gerrans, and his AG2R team, an idea of whether their toils have been worth it.
“Looks like there’s a couple of tough stages there,” added the Australian, who is racing his third Tour de France.
“So I think if Christophe has got the legs and he does attack he should be able to make it stick in the Pyrenees.”