Orica-GreenEdge and Lotto-Belisol played poker today during the 15th stage of the 2012 Tour de France to Pau and neither won. The stalemate saw an escape get enough time and end the sprinters’ chance of winning.
“We can’t put our guys on the front day in and day out. It’s 35 degrees and it’s really hot. If we use three guys to ride, then we have three less guys to use in the final,” Orica’s Matt Goss explained. He recovered in the shade of the team’s bus in a parking lot in Pau’s centre.
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“The teams with the complete teams would then come over us, and chances are we are not going to win the stage anyway. We played the first week well, we rode with Lotto quite a lot but in this middle week, no one wants to take a bit of responsibility. We took our chances at just saying ‘no’ today.”
Lotto-Belisol looked to Orica-GreenEdge, but found only blank faces. Orica was down one man with today’s abandon of Brett Lancaster, who crashed a few days ago and suffered from a chest infection. Goss can still rely on Daryl Impey for lead-outs – he has taken two third places and one second so far – but decided to play poker.
André Greipel led Lotto to three stage wins in this Tour. Mark Cavendish (Sky) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) won the other sprints. Their teams, however, are thinking about the overall classification with Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto), Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas).
After tomorrow’s rest day, they face the race’s final mountain legs to Bagnères-de-Luchon and Peyragudes. So, the 158.5km from Samatan to Pau today just became a western-style showdown with no shots fired.
With 11km remaining, the time advantage of the leading six shot up to 11-40 minutes. Sky patrolled the peloton just to keep Wiggins in front, where it wants him to finish in Paris on Sunday.
“Their big goal is to win the Tour de France,” Goss continued. “They’ve won a stage with Mark and I fully understand why they are not putting guys on the front. If we were here to win the Tour, I wouldn’t expect to have half the team riding for me on the front. They have a big goal and hats off to them; they are sitting in a good position at the moment.”
Goss remains without a win. He’s slightly bitter due to a race jury decision to regulate him in a sprint, costing him important green jersey points, and because Lotto benefited from Orica’s work on the 13th stage to Cap d’Agde on Saturday.
Two more possible sprint stages remain before the end, Brive-la-Gaillarde on Friday and the final day in Paris.
“We have to pick and choose,” Goss added. “We can’t ride ourselves to death every day.”
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