The riders have completed 1513.5 of their 3404 kilometres en route to Paris and so far it seems everything expected has transpired, along with much no one could have imagined.

Everything GreenEDGE touched has turned golden and while Cadel Evans has faltered, Australian fans have seen who will follow him in Richie Porte.

A breakthrough tour for GreenEDGE

On day one the GreenEDGE team was the laughing stock.

Gags about their team bus "winning" stage one abounded when it become wedged under the finish line gantry.

Fast forward to the end of week one and the general consensus has GreenEDGE as the toast of the Tour.

Just 48 hours on from the bus fiasco and Simon Gerrans had won the team's first Tour stage, profiting from some amazing teamwork by South African Daryl Impey.

A day later and Gerrans had the yellow jersey thanks to a record-breaking team time trial win in Nice.

Their 58kmh effort over 25 km would have earned them a ticket if on suburban streets back home, but instead earned the team a second stage win and Gerrans the coveted leader's yellow jersey.

Even for veteran Stuart O'Grady, who has ridden the most consecutive Tours de France ever and himself held the yellow jersey, the win was an "incredible" moment.

The man who bankrolled the GreenEDGE team was beside himself.

"I keep pinching myself that it has happened," Gerry Ryan told the ABC.

But what followed was truly exceptional.

After two days enjoying the adoration that comes with the yellow, jersey, Gerrans asked team boss Matt White if he could do something unprecedented, deliberately relinquish the lead in favour of second-placed Impey, a reward for the South African's selfless efforts.

"He's a mate, and I feel really privileged that I can offer that to such a good mate," Gerrans told the ABC.

It was the first time anyone from the African continent had donned yellow, and earned the team more headlines and positive publicity.

GreenEDGE are enjoying the Tour so much they released a video tribute for their fans showing highlights of their experiences while rocking out to ACDC.

Gerry Ryan has agreed to back the team for the next five years, and it will be interesting to see how the team develops - will it continue to target one day races and stage wins or aim to build a team capable of challenging for yellow?

The Sky Juggernaut

Tour organisers had openly said they feared Sky and favourite Chris Froome would strangle this year's race - establishing a lead early then using their team strength to set a tempo that made counter attacking impossible.

What they saw on Saturday night would have had them quivering in their boots. As predicted, the team set a pace which many big name riders struggled to follow, even before Chris Froome launched his final stage-winning attack on the climb to Pyrenean ski station Ax 3 Domaines.

Australian team-mate Richie Porte was the only one to finish within a minute of Froome and some were calling the Tour a foregone conclusion.

In the latest stage however, the Spanish Movistar team came to the rescue of those in search of a spectacle.

From the beginning of the 168km stage, Alejandro Valverde and Colombian Nairo Quintana launched a flurry of attacks over the day's numerous mountain climbs.

They succeeded in distancing Porte thus leaving Froome isolated and forced to chase every attack. The Kenyan-born British rider though, was up to the challenge.

What's to come?

With Porte losing more than 18 minutes, favourite Froome now has no team-mates in the top 10, meaning from now on his opponents can force him to respond to all of their accelerations.

Even Team Sky's boss, Dave Brailsford conceded after the stage "sure its not good for us, but its good for the Tour, its exciting racing."

The Tour de France cyclist's cliche equivalent of "taking it one week at a time" is "it's a long way to Paris."

In this instance, they may be right.

With their goal of a 100th edition spectacle firmly in mind, Tour organisers have scheduled without a doubt the hardest stages in this year's race near the very finish - four difficult days in the Alps.

With Valverde 1min25sec behind, and Quintana 2:02 back, Movistar has cards to play, as does Dutch team Belkin, whose climbers Bauke Mollema and Laurens Ten Dam are third and fourth, 1:44 and 1:50 adrift of Froome.

Don't write off Alberto Contador either - 1:51 from Froome's lead and traditionally is at his best in the latter stages of three-week long races.

As for Cadel - losing four minutes on stage 8 has forced him to scrap his goal of a podium finish in favour of a top ten result.

Credit to the 36-year-old though, he made no excuses for what he described as "surely the worst performance of his Tour career," and remains determined to salvage a respectable result.

The only problem with the final-week fireworks? Don't expect too much in week two. Apart from Tuesday night's time trial, the race will meander across northern France and back south in a series of relatively uneventful "transition" stages - that essentially serve to transport the riders back to the Alps.

If you're dosing your sleep deprivation, best to save the reserves for week three.

 

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