BOULOGNE-SUR-MER Jul 4 2012
Cadel Evans avoided the bad luck that bedevilled new Australian team Orica-GreenEDGE in a chaotic third stage of the Tour de France.
As Peter Sagan continued a dream Tour debut with his second stage win in three days, Australian GreenEDGE pair Simon Gerrans and Matt Goss joined a long list of riders who were caught in crashes.
The nervousness among riders about the tough stage proved justified when Belarusian Kanstantsin Sivtsov, a key teammate of Tour favourite Brad Wiggins, and Spaniard Jose Rojas became the first two riders to abandon the race.
Several other riders were also hurt in crashes on the 197km stage from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer, but like Gerrans they were able to finish.
Goss was caught in the same crash that briefly had Gerrans' arm tangled in a barbed wire fence.
While Goss was uninjured, the impact damaged his bike and put him out of contention for the stage win.
That also meant Goss lost more ground to Sagan in the green jersey category.
Gerrans was able to joke after the stage, saying his arm looked like a wildcat had scratched it.
"Fortunately nothing is serious, no broken bones," Gerrans said.
"You're probably more in shock from landing on your head at 60km/h than anyone else."
The one positive for GreenEDGE on a tough day was the fifth placing by in-form Swiss rider Michael Albasini.
Evans also had a solid day, finishing sixth as more strong teamwork from BMC kept him out of trouble.
He also moved up one spot on the overall standings to seventh, but that was because Belgian teammate Philippe Gilbert crashed on a stage he hoped to win and plummeted out of the top 10.
"I'm feeling better each day and, as a team, we're still getting our old habits back and getting in the groove," Evans said.
"There's still a lot of nervous racing ...you don't want to take your hands off the brake levers for a moment."
Sivtsov's forced exit could have big implications for Wiggins.
The plan was for the Belarusian to support the British star early on the mountain climbs.
Sky team manager Dave Brailsford said the setback was not devastating.
"It's like boxing - as long as you still got your gloves on and you're fighting you can knock the other fella out," he said.
Sagan impersonated movie character Forrest Gump at the finish, wildly pumping his arms in celebration.
The stage ended with a steep 700m ramp to the finish and Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel tried to steal the win with a late solo break.
But he was caught well before the finish.
Sagan also leads the points classification for the green jersey by a whopping 42 points, while Goss is fifth and 61 off the pace.
GreenEDGE admitted they botched the intermediate sprint in stage three, where Goss managed his only three points for the day.
By Roger Vaughan - AAP
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