Take away Simon Gerrans and you take away eight of the most significant victories for Orica-GreenEDGE since its inception.
Last year, it was the Australian road championships, Tour Down Under, Milan-San Remo and the GP Cycliste de QuÃ©bec. This year, the Willunga Hill stage at Down Under, a stage at the Volta a Catalunya and Tour of the Basque Country, and, Monday in Corsica, the third stage of the Tour de France.
That's how important he is to the team. That is his value. No doubt about it, 'Gerro' has carried OGE right from the get-go, and all the way to the present.
"This is obviously our biggest win," said sport director Matt White, who, in their team briefing before the stage, told his men that, if the stage came down to a sprint, they would all work for Gerrans. "We've won more than 50 races since the team's inception last year. We had already won at the Giro, the Vuelta, the Classics and all sorts of races between, but this is the one box we hadn't ticked off yet."
Rarely have I seen so many roles being played throughout a single stage of the Tour de France Ã¢â¬â all from one team, all for one cause, and all played to perfection.
Simon Clarke, awarded the day's most aggressive rider, made certain to slip into the early break. It immediately took pressure off the rest of the team, so they could save themselves for the finale. And when the time came, knowing capture was imminent, he attacked not in a vain attempt to stay away but to make it over the final climb, the Col de Marsolino, positioned 13.5 kilometres from the finish, so he could assist Cameron Meyer and Michael Albasini to chase down a four-man break, led by Europcar's Pierre Rolland.
In fact, so strong was Clarke, he towed Daryl Impey and Gerrans to the two-kilometres-to-go mark. Fast-finishing Impey, who won a sprint stage of the Basque Country tour earlier this year (courtesy of a lead-out from Gerrans), and who Gerrans led out Sunday in Ajaccio, underwent a role reversal, and intelligently, left Peter Sagan's team-mate Ã¢â¬â notably, his only team-mate at that point Ã¢â¬â to bury himself out front, before a momentary lull saw him outmanoeuvre the Cannondale Express by jumping down the right-hand side, catching Sagan slightly off-guard.
Dropping Gerrans off with two hundred to go, The Dimpled One drag-raced the speedy Slovak all the way to the line, the former's bike-throw matching that of any top pure sprinter, as if he contested bunch sprints all the time, like Sagan does.
Neither would celebrate, it was that close. "I had no idea if I had won," Gerrans said afterwards.
"I wasn't going to celebrate too early. Sagan and I were on the opposite ends of the road and we both threw our bikes. My win was confirmed a few minutes later. We're all pretty ecstatic. It was a total team effort. I'm really proud how everyone contributed."
The Tour de France monkey is off their back. One gets the feeling that they'll now be on a roll, all the way to Paris and beyond.
Gerrans, Impey and Michael Albasini are just one second off the race lead of RadioShack-Leopard's Jan Bakelandts. A brilliant team time trial could put either mellow in yellow.
Maillot jaune, anyone?