NICE, France (AP) — Simon Gerrans only started cycling because someone who once wore a Tour de France yellow jersey lent him a bike to help him recover from injury. Now the proud Australian veteran is wearing a leader's jersey of his own.
Gerrans was part of the Orica Greenedge squad which won the team time trial by less than one second Tuesday on the fourth stage of the Tour, putting him in the overall lead. While one day in yellow does not put him in the category of his more famous countrymen like Cadel Evans, the 2011 Tour winner, and Phil Anderson, the first from back home to wear the coveted jersey in 1981, the 33-year-old is nonetheless a very proud Aussie.
"Phil was the first Australian to wear the yellow jersey and now to be the latest Australian to wear the yellow jersey, it's a very special feeling," Gerrans said. He owes Anderson a lot more than recognition.
"Phil Anderson introduced to me cycling. In fact he was my first coach, he lent me a bike to get started in competitive cycling," Gerrans said. "So it was really thanks to Phil that I took up cycling as a sport and originally took it up as a form of rehabilitation because of some knee injuries I sustained while racing motorbikes."
Now Gerrans, who is not a contender for overall victory, hopes to keep the jersey for "a couple more days." The next two stages are mostly flat so he may well be able to protect his lead if there are no crashes - or he gets another stage win like he did in Monday's third stage.
Considered an outsider to win the 25-kilometer (15.5-mile) dash along the streets of the southern seaport of Nice, Orica edged early pacesetter Omega Pharma-Quickstep by .75 seconds with the top four teams finishing within 10 seconds of each other. Orica clocked 25 minutes, 56 seconds.
Gerrans, who won stage 3 in a sprint finish, took the overall lead from Belgian rider Jan Bakelants. The Orica riders formed a circle and then hugged and slapped each other on the back when they were sure of the win.
"It's certainly been a very, very big two days," said team sporting director Matt White. "Most teams are judged very much by how they perform here at the Tour de France." Race favorite Chris Froome's Sky team finished third, three seconds off the pace, while rival Alberto Contador's Saxo-Tinkoff finished a further six seconds back.
"We'll take that result," Sky team boss Dave Brailsford said. "The boys pulled together." Froome is three seconds behind Gerrans overall, while two-time Tour champion Contador is six seconds behind Froome and his strong performance showed he has overcome his spill from Saturday.
The peloton returned to mainland France after three stages in the searing heat and sinewy climbs of Corsica. Under sunny blue skies, the teams set off at four-minute intervals and the overall team standings were reversed, meaning the first team to go was Argos-Shimano and the last was RadioShack.
Argos-Shimano, including Marcel Kittel — the German who won the Tour's hectic first stage — finished last, nearly two minutes off the pace. Omega set a ferociously quick time despite the fact their best rider — Tony Martin — was carrying the raw scars of his fall on stage 1.
Garmin-Sharp, convincing winners of the team time trial when it was last held two years ago, had high hopes of placing veteran David Millar in the yellow jersey. But they finished in sixth place, 17 seconds behind Orica, and Millar blamed himself.
"I wasn't in good form today but the team was very, very strong," the 36-year-old said. "I think it was me who was missing the seconds." It was incredibly hard for the injured riders taking part, too, with Martin and Geraint Thomas nursing some nasty injuries.
Martin became unconscious in the team bus after his fall and was taken to hospital for injuries including bruising of the lung, while Thomas rode with a fractured pelvis. "Unbelievable," Brailsford said, praising Thomas. "Real courage and a testament to the Welsh blood in him."
It was a bad day for Evans, as his BMC team placed ninth, meaning the 36-year-old is now 23 seconds behind Froome and 17 behind Contador. "It wasn't a good operation. In 2007 I lost the GC (overall standings) by 23 seconds, so it's a lot," Evans said. "I'm a little bit disappointed."
The day belonged to another Australian. ___= AP Sports writer John Leicester and Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten contributed to this report.