NICE, France — Simon Gerrans started cycling because another Australian, who first wore a Tour de France yellow jersey, lent him a bike to help him recover from an injury.
Now Gerrans is wearing a Tour leader’s jersey of his own.
He was part of the Orica Greenedge squad that won the team time trial by less than 1 second Tuesday in the fourth stage, putting him in the overall lead.
One day in yellow doesn’t place him in the category of his famous countrymen Phil Anderson, the first Aussie to wear the coveted jersey in 1981, or Cadel Evans, the 2011 Tour winner.
But the 33-year-old Gerrans is still proud of his accomplishment after Anderson introduced him to the sport.
“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,” he said.
Considered an outsider to win the 15.5-mile dash along the streets of the southern seaport of Nice, Orica edged pacesetter Omega Pharma-Quickstep by 0.75 seconds and finished in 25 minutes, 56 seconds. The top four teams finishing within 10 seconds of each other.
Gerrans, who won stage 3 in a sprint finish, took the overall lead from Belgian rider Jan Bakelants.
Chris Froome of Sky team is 3 seconds behind Gerrans for the overall lead, while two-time Tour champion Contador is 6 seconds behind Froome.
Gerrans said Anderson was his first coach and “lent me a bike to get started in competitive cycling” as a “form of rehabilitation because of some knee injuries I sustained while racing motorbikes.”
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 on Monday.
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 Froome’s Sky team finished third, 3 seconds off the pace, while rival Contador’s Saxo-Tinkoff finished 9 seconds back.
“We’ll take that result,” Sky team boss Dave Brailsford said. “The boys pulled together.”
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 4-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 2 minutes off the pace.
Omega set a ferociously quick time despite the fact their best rider — Tony Martin — was carrying the scars from 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.
“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.”
Martin was unconscious in the team bus after his fall and taken to a hospital for injuries that included bruising of the lung. Thomas rode with a fractured pelvis.
“Unbelievable,” Brailsford said, praising Thomas. “Real courage.”
It was a tough day for Evans, with his BMC team placed ninth, placing him 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.”
This day belonged to another Australian.