The near-unassailable position that Simon Gerrans finds himself in is the product of brilliant teamwork, though one man stands out in particular, writes Anthony Tan.
Cycling Central
22 Jan 2016 - 7:53 PM  UPDATED 22 Jan 2016 - 8:02 PM

'I couldn't have done it without my team-mates.'

It's perhaps the most trite post-victory anecdote in professional sports - professional team sports, that is. (It'd be a bit of a worry if Novak Djokovic or Manny Pacquiao or Rory McIlroy were saying it...)

I get sick of hearing it, you get sick of hearing it; we all get sick of hearing it.

"The lead out that Daryl gave me in the final, it's making me look really good." - Simon Gerrans

The most gracious winner and simultaneously the most annoying interviewee is Mark Cavendish. I've sat in the press conferences for most of his twenty-six Tour de France stage wins and around half of his fifteen victories from the Giro d'Italia, and if someone were to play those back to me in jumbled fashion, I probably couldn't tell you which years - or even which races! - they were from.

This week at the Tour Down Under, however, there's one rider this overused expression applies to more than any other: Daryl Impey.

Last Sunday, the 31-year-old from Johannesburg led Caleb Ewan out to victory at the Down Under Classic. "It got a bit messy in the end because it is hard for the team to take control of the front the whole time," Ewan said, "and I think IAM were sitting back a bit and they did it pretty well. We just jumped on them and Daryl did a perfect lead-out in the end."

On Tuesday, the opening stage of the TDU, Impey, along with five other members of the Orica-GreenEDGE posse, kept in check the early three-man breakaway for most of the day. He then formed part of the train to keep Ewan well-positioned in the final six kilometres when Sean Lake, the last-surviving escapee, was caught. That day, Caleb won his first WorldTour race.

Wednesday, on the final lap around Stirling, Impey had his team leader Simon Gerrans in perfect position till, five-hundred metres from the line, a touch of wheels by a rider in front brought both men down, among six others.

Would Gerrans have beaten stage winner Jay McCarthy?

Who knows, though you'd have to say he would have come close, and, based on what he's done to date, found the podium at the very least.

A previous winner of the Tour of Alberta (2014) and Tour of Turkey (2009), Impey brought his climbing legs Thursday. On the third leg from Glenelg to Campbelltown that featured the climb up Corkscrew Road, both he and Michael Albasini shepherded Gerrans on its lower-to-mid slopes before it was every man for himself save for BMC Racing, who had defending champion Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte in the mix.

Impey's work and that of his team-mates, coupled with Gerrans' experience, which saw him ride at his own pace up Corkscrew then chase back on over the top, allowed the three-time TDU champ to keep enough in the tank to fight for the stage win - that he duly took along with the race lead.

On Friday's stage to Victor Harbor, Impey was back at it again.

Other than Gerrans, he was the only OGE rider to make the split on the climb of Crows Nest, some 20 kilometres from the finish. The four-time national time trial champion of South Africa was unperturbed; he knew what do, and, as he did for Ewan on Tuesday, he did for Gerrans today.

"I had a really good run into the finish," Gerrans said after a victory that surprised a few including himself. "I have a few Tour Down Under races under my belt now so I do know that finish quite well, as does Daryl, who led me out today for the final four-hundred metres, and that really worked in our favour.

"The guys are just doing everything we are asking of them and then some. The work they did at the start of the stage for the first intermediate sprint and then the lead out that Daryl gave me in the final, it's making me look really good."

Gerrans consolidates TDU lead with Victor Harbour win
Race leader Simon Gerrans added a buffer to his narrow overall lead after winning the fourth stage of the Santos Tour Down Under.

Thanks to his OGE team though especially Impey, Gerrans has extended his lead to 14 and 26 seconds over McCarthy and Dennis, respectively, and enjoys a near half-minute buffer over Team Sky's Sergio Henao, so far the best climber in the race and arguably his greatest threat.

Given the length and gradient of Old Willunga Hill, not to mention Gerrans' present form, it would take a gargantuan effort by the Colombian to overhaul the ochre jersey. Possible, though not probable.

No, more than likely, for the dimpled Sniper, a fourth TDU crown awaits.

Hate to say it, but if it happens, he couldn't have done it without his team-mates.