Daryl Impey is the man who suffered a horrific crash in the final metres of the Presidential Tour of Turkey in 2009, with the yellow jersey on his back – when Theo Boss decided that the South African might like to make a close inspection of the crash barriers.
The podium substituted for an ambulance, that day – but Impey fought back from his injuries.
Then his Barloworld team – for whom he rode the 2008/9 seasons – folded.
However, a contract with Radio Shack took him back up to the sport’s highest level for 2010.
Bur just twelve months ago, he was down at Continental level with South African team MTN Qhubeka – who threw him a lifeline after his contract with stillborn Australian ‘Pro Tour’ outfit Pegasus proved not to be worth the paper it was written on.
MTN were the team he originally turned professional with in 2007.
His results with that squad – including a stage win and second on GC in the Tour of Morocco – saw Pro Continental squad NetApp offer him a contract, and in the autumn it was back to the top division when he signed with fledgling Australian Pro Tour team, GreenEdge.
And earlier in the year in the second stage of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais, 166 kilometres over typically Basque terrain – rising and falling all day – from Guenes to Vitoria-Gasteiz, the 27 year-old from Johannesburg grabbed his first World Tour win.
Not content with one win, the man from Johannesburg scored again in the recent Tour de Slovenie against a strong field – and for good measure added third in the closing time trial ahead of specialists like Michael Hepburn, Jens Mouris and Sam Bewley.
Although it’s not cast in stone that Impey will line up for his first Tour de France start in one week’s time in Liege, it’ll be a surprise if he doesn’t.
Matt Goss has named Impey as a vital part of his lead out train and the 27 year-old is improving as each month goes by.
Impey took time to talk to VeloVeritas as he awaited the final nod on his participation in the biggest race of them all (Vik hates when I say that.)
You’ve got the Giro out of your legs then, Daryl?
“I’ve recovered well, yes.
“I had friends and family over to Girona to see me after that Giro and that was a nice part of the recovery process.
“I think I’m ready for The Tour if I’m chosen.
“This has been a special year for me, the team was winning from the beginning with Simon Gerrans in his National then Down Under and Milan-Sanremo – the team spirit is amazing.”
It must be difficult to strike the balance between work and rest after a race like the Giro?
“It is quite tough, yes,
“But this is the first year that I’ve had a coach – I used to smash myself too much but working with Mark Quod our coach on the team has made such a difference.
“We have fun, laughs and rest when we need to – but work hard when we train.
“I think that pulling out of the Giro after stage 16 was the right decision; it meant I didn’t do too much.”
Tell us about your win in Slovenie.
“The objective there was for us to practice our sprint drills – we thought that the Tour de Slovenie would be flat but not a bit of it.
“On stage two I got in the group of 20 and knew that I had a good chance if it stayed away, we were caught by another group of about 20 but that was just as the sprint opened up and it was too late to affect the outcome – it was perfect timing.
“If you’d told me at the start of the season that I’d get a Pro Tour win then another stage win I’d have had doubts – my luck has definitely turned.
“And it’s been confirmed that I have the only South African spot for the Olympics – I like the course and with being on my own there’s no expectation on me to have to work.”
And you were third in the TT stage.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever achieved a podium place in a European time trial.
“It shows that that now I’ve recovered from the Giro I’m at a higher level.
“I’ve always been Ok in time trials but that was my best result.”
We know you can’t confirm, but there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be at the Tour?
“I’m on the list!”
[In fact, Daryl’s Tour selection was confirmed shortly after this interview was published – Editor.]
What will GreenEdge’s goal be at the Tour?
“We’ve no GC guy so it’s all about Gossy, the green jersey and stage wins.
“With more points at stake in the intermediate sprints it’ll mean there’s more than one sprint to be contested each day.
“To win the green jersey you’ll have to be good – we see Sagan as the main danger.”
And if you do ride, what’s it about for you?
“Whilst there may be opportunities for me, ultimately my only purpose is to support Matt Goss.
“I may get an opportunity on a stage where the non pure sprinters aren’t here – but even in that situation I have to think if the following day is one where Matt will need me and I shouldn’t go too deep.
“You have to make sacrifices for the bigger picture.”
When does the team head for Liege?
“I think they’re travelling down on Tuesday night depending on flights.
“There are always health checks and presentations at the start of a Grand Tour – but I believe that at the Tour it’s particularly chaotic.”
In the ‘old days’ riders would get a new bike and kit for the Tour – is that still the case?
“I think so, I think there’ll be a whole bunch of new equipment – the Tour is the biggest shop window in the world for the manufacturers.
“So I’m sure that Scott will have all the new stuff on show.”
And would you be the only South African in the race?
“No, Robbie Hunter has been confirmed for Garmin – only Robbie and John Lee Augustyn have ever ridden the Tour from South Africa.
“I’d be the third – but the first Impey!”
And you get the weekend off with the Euro Nationals being held.
“Yeah, all of us guys from the southern hemisphere have our Nationals early in the year so we’re not racing.
“I think Michael Albasini has a good chance for us in the Swiss champs – he’s flying.”
And will you get a break after the Olympics?
“Yeah, it’ll calm down – I had a bit of a late start to the season but it’s been full gas, since.
“I’ll have a bit of a break after the Olympics; then it’ll be time to build up for the Worlds . . .”