MAKING your Tour de France debut would be daunting at the best of times.
So spare a thought for young Australian Jay McCarthy, whose first experience of the world's biggest bike race has been like walking into the lion's den.
The Queenslander, riding for German outfit Bora-Hansgrohe, has watched as two of his teammates left the race in the first 10 days.
First, superstar world champion Peter Sagan was disqualified for his part in a brutal stage four crash involving Mark Cavendish. Then, protected climber Rafal Majka crashed hard on a stage nine descent and had to pull out with breathing problems.
"The body is okay, but mentally it's draining of course," McCarthy, 24, said.
"We've had a few different issues in the team, but I can say that the team has held way together and we're all ready to fight in the next 10 days of the race.
"I've done a few Grand Tours, but I always heard about the stress of the Tour de France and the pressure the team and you put on yourself in this race. It lives up to everything that everyone says."
A Tour Down Under stage winner who has also finished fourth and third in Australia's World Tour race, McCarthy said he had high hopes for the remainder of the Tour.
With Sagan and Majka gone, there is more flexibility for McCarthy and some of his teammates to shine.
"I definitely want to get out there and get amongst it. I'd like to get in the breakaway," McCarthy said.
"I don't think Sky are always going to be worried about bringing the breakaway back, so there's always going to be breakways that get to the finish and we'll have to look for opportunities.
"We all had to prove our conditioning to be here and show out strengths. Yes, some of us were here to support Peter and Rafa, but we've already shown that we have Rudi (Selig) in the sprints.
"We'll chip away at that on the flat days and in the mountains myself, Emu (Emanuel Buchmann), we'll all go for the breakaway."
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