The Friday before the Tour is press conference day. At the end of the formalities for Orica-GreenEdge’s moment on the stage, Daryl Impey spoke about the team, his tasks for the coming three weeks and reflected on his absence from the race last year.
“Sport’s a funny thing,” said Daryl Impey at the end of a quick catch-up on the eve of the 2015 Tour de France. “Sometimes you’re the bat, sometimes you’re the ball.”
The South African is the room-mate of Simon Gerrans during the race this year. The pair were stars of the first week of the Tour a couple of years ago and they’ll be back in the peloton today for the time trial in Utrecht.
There are a host of quality riders on the Orica-GreenEdge roster for the 102nd Tour but ‘Gerro’ is the ‘leader, at least that’s the assumption you could make by looking the race number. Simon Gerrans wears “101” then the dossard allocation follows in alphabetical order: 102 Albasini; 103 Durbridge; 104 Impey; 105 Matthews; 106 Tuft; 107 Weening; 108 Yates; 109 Yates. That’s OGE for Le Tour 2015.
But the numbers don’t tell the full story. Gerrans is likely to be one of the protected riders but he’s not the outright leader.
It’s an eclectic line-up for the Australian-registered team and there are options for success. The versatility of the mix allows the directeurs sportif, Matt White and Lorenzo Lapage, the chance to make plans… and change them depending on circumstance.
There’s a multiple TT world champion on the roster, two who have worn the Tour’s maillot jaune, theres’s one sprinter who has won stages in both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España – and led GC in both… there’s a cunning Swiss veteran, a Canadian freight-train who has helped deliver the team to many victories in TTTs over the years. There’s a Dutchman who won a stage of the Tour 10 years ago. And there’s a pair of English lads ready to find out what it’s like to race together in the world’s biggest race.
‘Gerro’ is arguably the most accomplished of the nine at OGE, but that’s only if you consider winning to be the main criteria. He’s the consummate professional and a rider who made his debut in the Tour 10 years ago as part of a French team. And the progression has been constant ever since although there have been a few hiccups in recent times. He would body-slam in the dying metres of stage one in 2014 and eventually abandon a race that, let’s face it, this team would probably rather forget.
In 2013, the 100th Tour began in brilliant way for the Aussie team. The 101st was essentially rank, a contest with few highlights for the team. And now it’s time for the start of the 102nd Tour and it’s an opportunity to consider what might become of the next three weeks.
Good, bad… and then? We’ll soon know.
For Daryl Impey, one thing is certain: the lead-up to the 2015 Tour is much better than what he went through before the race one year ago.
(Five minutes with Impey: click the SoundCloud file below to listen to the chat with the South African.)
“I’m not angry,” said Impey about The Probenicide Incident of 2014. He’d been found positive before eventually clearing his name at the end of the season. In the meantime, he missed the chance to contest the Tour, a year on from when he became the first South African to wear the yellow jersey. “I’m just really happy to be back here and to have it all behind me now and to have it all settled and cleared up.
“Obviously it’s a year lost but you can make it up this year and if you have a stage win along the way it’ll definitely make things better.”
He’s known for his lead-out work, for his versatility, for his tenacity; he’s a rider, a racer and a passionate motivator. But Impey is also a person. He likes his cycling but there are other things in life. When the race is over, he’s back on the bus to review the events of the day with his team-mates, and then it’s onward to another hotel room in another town and another long-distance call to his family.
This is cycling and the race is what brings this troupe together for the next three weeks. They share each other’s enthusiasm for trying to earn a result but ask any of them to nominate who the leader is and you’ll only get a vague answer. Each of them will get their chance, each of them has their strengths… but it’s the collective that makes Orica-GreenEdge a team that’s become popular with fans around the world.
The team bus was the first thing to really make headlines at the Tour de France but then came a succession of conquests in 2013: Gerro’s win in stage three, the TTT triumph in Nice with a record average speed, the days in the yellow jersey… they are highlights for the first Australian-registered team to contest the race.
There was a “lost year” but there’s every reason to believe that success is just around the corner. Never assume anything though this is the Tour de France.
“The big priority is to make the team win,” Impey told me after it was suggested the aim would be to lead-out Michael Matthews for the sprints. “It’s not only about Michael Matthews or Simon Gerrans. There are quite a few guys who can win stages.
“My role is really important in the team – it’s about looking after the guys I’m with and the final guy, now that doesn’t really matter.”
He’s helped both those Australians win races before and he may yet do it again but the strong point of Orica-GreenEdge is its versatility. “The beauty about the team is that there’s always going to be a chance for everyone,” summarised Impey. “None of them are selfish enough to say that they want it all to be about them.
“I think later in the Tour there may be some days that are suited to me and I might be given a free role but it’s about taking the opportunity yourself sometimes too.
“We know when somebody’s really up for the win, we’ll back them and give them the best chance possible.”
– By Rob Arnold