Costly error ruins Aussie team's chance of Tour stage win
A ROUNDABOUT 2km from the finish line has cost Orica-Scott its best chance of a stage win at the Tour de France.
The Australian team was perfectly placed with 10km to go, with teammates Jens Keukeleire and Michael Albasini in a lead group of nine destined to contest the win.
The Orica pair looked strong, but their decision to go left and the long way around the road furniture with five others would prove decisive. Nikias Ardnt and eventual winner Edvald Boasson Hagen went right and opened up a 20m gap that couldn't be closed.
Albasini, who followed Italian Daniele Bennati into the roundabout, said fatigue had got the better of him at the end of the longest stage of the Tour - a 222.5km slog from Embrun to Salon-de-Provence.
"We talked about (the roundabout) before the stage, but at that moment we were pretty cooked and I messed up left and right and I took the wrong decision," Albasini said.
"Everybody else following me did the same. Just those two guys on the right, they did everything right.
"We couldn't catch them back. I tried everything to bring maybe Jens back for the sprint, but there were no legs left after a tough last 25km.
"That roundabout cost us the chance to sprint for the victory. It's a bit disappointing, but that's how it is."
Keukeliere, who finished third, said: "We had talked about a roundabout on the bus ... but when we got to it, it hit me like 'damn, it's already here'."
Yet Boasson Hagen was a deserving winner, with the Norwegian coming off second-best in two photo finishes in this year's Tour. After dropping Arndt inside the last two kilometres, this time no photo was required.
"We did this morning a video of the roundabouts and we knew you had to be on the right side and everyone went on the left side except Nikias and me," Boasson Hagen said.
"I was really surprised. I don't know if everyone 'reconned' the section beforehand, but sometimes you forget what happens in the meeting and you follow the rest.
"Nikias counter-attacked and I knew this was the moment to follow. I've been so close so many times and finally I've got one ... I didn't have to have a photo finish so I'm very happy about that."
Orica-Scott are now likely to go through the Tour de France without winning a stage, but with Simon Yates poised to claim the young rider's white jersey in Paris, they've achieved their main objective.
"Mistakes happen don't they?" Orica-Scott sports director Matt White said.
"It certainly gave those guys an advantage coming out of that corner and there was too much to bring back.
"Everything was going well until then, but s..t happens doesn't it? The boys were good today. We know we needed to infiltrate the break and they did that well."
Chris Froome cruised through to retain the yellow jersey in a peloton that trundled in more than 12 minutes behind the remnants of the original breakaway of 20 riders.
The Brit will take a 23-second lead over Romain Bardet and a 29-second advantage of Rigoberto Uran into tomorrow's penultimate 22.5km time trial on the streets of Marseilles.
It will take something of a miracle to stop Froome, the strongest time trialler of the trio, from winning his fourth Tour de France.