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Lancaster can't make it to Paris

17 July 2012

Sadly, Brett Lancaster's Tour de France dream has been painfully left in tatters.

The Athens Olympic track gold medallist was forced to abandon the race during stage 15 when the accumulated effects of three crashes and two weeks of heavy lifting on the road became too much.

It means that he will not have the thrill of riding into Paris on Sunday with the rest of the Orica-GreenEDGE team as they complete their historic mission - the first Australian team to contest the great race.

That hurts him as much as the damage to his left leg, inflicted by a really heavy fall a couple of days ago.

"It's disappointing but that's life and I'll just have to move on and concentrate on the rest of the year," the 32-year-old Victorian said.

Lancaster's misfortunes started early when he fell during a warm-up ride before the prologue on the opening day and his luck didn't improve much.

Employed as part of the lead-out train for star sprinter Matt Goss - who has also endured a frustrating but less physically painful campaign - Lancaster started the stage in 134th place, two and a quarter hours off the pace, not that such statistics mean much to the workers who are not involved in the fight for general classification honours.

He said he hoped to make it to Tuesday's rest day so that the injury could be treated, but he had so little power left in the leg that it was a futile thought.

"Hopefully it is just inflamed and won't need surgery," he said.

GreenEDGE team director Matt White applauded Lancaster for his contribution, saying: "He's done a great job, but he's been carrying the injury for two or three days and you can't recover in the mountain stages, especially a guy like 'Burt.'"

The team remains without the stage win that would rescue what has been a fairly disappointing two weeks so far, but with five racing days left White insists they are not done for yet.

The big hope is that Goss, who has had three podium finishes without quite getting the job done, can take the prestigious final stage in the Champs Elysees on Sunday.

White said Lancaster's absence would not damage Goss's chances of doing that because the rest of the support group was still going strongly.

Friday's long trip from Blagnec to Brive-la-Gaillarde might also give the sprinters a chance.

Before then two brutal stints in the Pyrenees loom, with White claiming that Simon Gerrans - a mountain stage winner four years ago - or Swiss rider Michael Albasini might be able to deliver something.

While White might be clutching at straws to some extent, he said: "We are not going to give up, that's for sure."

He had been bullish - as usual - in the morning about Goss's chances on the 158.5km hit out from Samatan to Pau, saying the team was primed for a huge effort with time running out.

The reality was that, along with almost everybody else, they made no attempt to chase down a long six-man break that propelled Frenchman Pierrick Fedrigo of FDJ-Big Mat across the line.

"After the two weeks we have had I wasn't going to kill the boys by putting them up the front for two hours," White explained.

With the peloton cruising in 12 minutes behind, Cadel Evans' position remains unchanged - he is fourth, 3 min 19 sec behind leader Brad Wiggins, and with the two mountain stages his best hope of retrieving the situation. But even Evans admits it’s a long shot now.

Australia's Olympic road race team - Evans, Goss, Gerrans, Michael Rogers and Stuart O'Grady is intact. After Evans, Rogers is the best placed at 26th, just over 33 minutes behind Wiggins, for whom he has been working tirelessly.

Gerrans is 71st at an hour 26, O'Grady 98th at 1.52 and Goss 121st at 2.07.

Ron Reed in Pau, France

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