Australians chase maiden Tour stage win
Time is fast running out for Australian team Orica-GreenEDGE to score their elusive first stage win in the Tour de France.
With two massive days in the Pyrenees behind them, the riders still in the race can start thinking of Sunday’s famed Paris finish.
Stage 18 heads due north, then the stage 19 time trial will most likely confirm Brad Wiggins’ title.
The traditional final stage will effectively be a procession until the field has eight laps of the Champs Elysees and the sprinters’ teams try to set up their fast men for one last high-speed finish.
Orica-GreenEDGE do not boast a time-trial specialist, so Friday and Sunday will be their last shots at capping an encouraging Tour debut.
Their No.1 goal in their Tour debut is a stage win.
They have managed every stage placing from second to seventh and featured heavily in the “grunt” work when it has come time to reel in breakaways on the flatter days.
Their sprinter Matt Goss was also closing on the green jersey classification until stage 12, when a controversial 30-point penalty ended his pursuit of category leader Peter Sagan.
Goss has not featured prominently since, with team director Matt White declaring he has had a couple of “off” days.
With the Olympics road race looming on July 28, Goss will aim to test his sprinting form.
Great Britain’s sprint ace Mark Cavendish is the early favourite for the Olympic road race and he also owns the Paris stage.
A win over Cavendish would be a massive boost for Goss ahead of the Games.
Stage 18 from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde has a category-three climb and three category fours along its 222.5km route.
It should be a sprinter’s stage, although stage 15 showed if the right break gets away and not enough teams are committed to the chase, then an opportunist might win.
After the Pyrenees, nine Australians were left in the Tour from the record 12 starters.
Matt Lloyd, Mark Renshaw and Brett Lancaster have abandoned.
Lancaster’s withdrawal could hurt Goss because the Olympic gold medallist was a key part of their sprint leadout train.
But White is confident they can cover his absence.
“We’ve been quite flexible – obviously Daryl Impey has been key to the leadouts, but we have options with Cookie (Baden Cooke) as well,” he said.© AAP 2013
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