AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (VN) — Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) is poised to become the first African to take the maillot jaune in Thursday’s sixth stage to Montpellier.
Tied on time with race leader Simon Gerrans, Impey could take over the yellow jersey if he finishes ahead of his Aussie teammate.
“Our main goal is to defend the yellow jersey, that’s what it’s all about,” Impey told VeloNews before the start. “Gerro feels the same way. We want to defend yellow. What’s sure is that we are not racing against each other.”
A few things have to stack up for Impey to slip into the yellow jersey.
First, the stage has to end in a bunch sprint without anyone close on GC staying clear. With the Pyrénées looming, all the sprinter teams will be working to set up the bunch sprint today and Friday, so that looks likely.
Second, he will have to finish eight places ahead of Gerrans.
When riders are tied on time, placement determines who holds yellow. Similar to the omnium on the track, the classification is calculated by tallying up all of the results over the previous stages, and the rider with the lowest number comes out on top.
Orica’s third man tied on GC, Michael Albasini, has too many high placements to be a realistic candidate to move ahead of Gerrans and Impey.
Orica sport director Matt White told VeloNews that the team wants to carry the yellow into the Pyrénées no matter what.
“Whether it’s Gerro or Impey, it doesn’t matter,” White said. “We want to defend yellow. With the sprints coming up, that should work out. We will have help controlling the breakaways.”
Impey said the team is not purposely trying to play “hot potato” with the jersey, and said that if he does manage to take yellow, it will be because he is doing his job as leading out team sprinter Matt Goss.
“No, it would be too difficult to try to play it that way,” Impey said of trying to have Gerrans hit the hooks so Impey could slip ahead a few places. “We all have our job to do on the team. Mine today is to set up Gossie, so if I am doing that, I will be near the front already. Gerro won’t be sitting on the back. We’ll be riding for Gossie. If it works out, it would be fantastic. The priority is to keep yellow on the team.”
If Impey snatches yellow, he would become the first African to hold the Tour’s leader’s jersey.
Africa is the Tour’s final frontier. Robbie Hunter is the only African to win a Tour stage, sprinting to victory in stage 11.
Curiously enough, that was in Montpellier as well.