Johannesburg – Late on Tuesday afternoon, Daryl Impey, a man from the south of Johannesburg, stood in the heat of the sun in Nice in the south of France, a smile the width of the Rainbow Nation across his face.
He had just become the second South African to win a stage at the Tour de France, leading his Australian Orice-GreenEdge team over the line in the 25km team time trial in Nice, the fourth stage. They had beaten Omega Pharma-Quickstep, the team that includes the world champion Philippe Gilbert and sprinter supreme Mark Cavendish, by just 75 hundredths of a second with a time of 25 minutes and 56 seconds. The win put Impey’s teammate, the Australian, Simon Gerrans, into the yellow jersey, with Impey second overall with the same time as Gerrans.
It was a result that Impey had not predicted, saying before the TTT that his team was not “a pure team time trial outfit”.
“But, that doesn’t stop us believing we can go out and win the thing,” said Impey. “There’s a belief and team spirit in Orica-GreenEdge that I have not experienced anywhere else. This is a special team and will do special things.”
Impey had been instrumental in their first special thing of this year’s Tour de France, giving Gerrans the perfect lead-out against the sprinting wunderkind that is Slovakian Peter Sagan on the third stage.
It was Orica-GreenEdge’s first Tour de France win, and had seen a change-around of roles after Gerrans had tried to do the same thing for Impey on stage one, where the South African had taken 11th, and stage two, where he was eighth.
Robbie Hunter, who missed out on his 10th Tour de France after his Garmin-Sharp team had gone with a sprinter-less strategy for the race, was impressed with Impey. Hunter was the first South African to win a stage in the Tour de France, in Montpellier in 2007. “Great job by Daryl,” he tweeted. “That’s how you lead out a teammate – nice to see. Absolute team player.”
Gerrans agreed, as did the Sydney Morning Herald, who called Impey’s stage three lead-out one kilometre from the end, “brilliant”. “I just followed Daryl, put my faith in him completely and he delivered me inside 200m from the line. I started my sprint just inside 200m. I saw in the final 50m Sagan came up beside me, and we drag raced to the line,” said Gerrans.
“I really wasn’t sure who won. I wasn’t going to celebrate too early until I was sure that I had won. I am really happy to have finished off some fantastic work from Orica-GreenEdge teammates and to get our first win in the Tour. In the last kilometres I really put all my faith in Daryl Impey actually. He is one of the best lead-out men going around. We had a little role reversal from the first couple of stages where I was looking after Daryl and the plan was that he was to look after me.”
The other “South African” interest in the Tour de France, Chris Froome of Team Sky and a Parkhurst, Johannesburg, resident, is currently seventh, three seconds behind Gerrans. – Pretoria News