Canadian Ryder Hesjedal started the Tour de France as Christian Vande Velde's mountain man, but now finds himself battling for a top ten overall while Vande Velde watches from home.
Vande Velde abandoned the Tour de France on the third day to Spa due to a crash and two broken ribs. Hesjedal quickly took up responsibility of the team's overall contender, with Vande Velde calling frequently with advice.
"The last thing he wants to do is be going through the Tour de France mentally when he is at home," explained Hesjedal. "Though, I heard from him a lot when he first dropped out. I am sure he sees that I am fine and doing my best."
Hesjedal showed Vande Velde he is up to his best today. He went on the attack today with Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden and Vasil Kiryienka, hoping to gain some time in the classification or a stage win. However, it didn't work. The favourites group caught Hesjedal, and the other three, on the closing climb.
It was a risky move for a rider sitting in the top 20 overall and with the four Pyrenean stages to come, but Hesjedal was please with his aggression.
"I would rather race than sit and follow. Some people might say that is stupid, but I am here to race and I'd rather be out front taking my chances," Hesjedal explained.
"I am not scared, even with the hardest days of the Tour de France coming up."
Four of the hardest days are coming in the Pyrenees, beginning with Sunday's stage to Ax 3 Domaines. Hesjedal sits 13th overall, 6'25" behind leader Andy Schleck and over a minute ahead of former team-mate, Sky's Bradley Wiggins.
"I don't think I am 'racing' against him at the moment, but we have been surviving together. We just happened to be with each other on the end of the Alpine stages," Hesjedal continued.
"The sport changes every year. If you get fourth one year, obviously you have to prepare and try to come back to improve. He said immediately after his first few tests [stages in the race] that he doesn't not think he is capable of going with the top guys.
"I never came here with a top ten in mind. Maybe if I had been thinking about it all year and now to be here, then maybe that would be different."
Is a top ten possible for Hesjedal?
"I think so," he said. "It is a nice goal to shoot for."
Tour de France 2010: Latest news
Renshaw disqualification overshadows Cavendish's win
Charly Wegelius pulls out of Tour
Did Armstrong own a stake in Tailwind Sports, or not?
Cavendish in a 'must win' situation for Tour's green jersey
Millar rides through pain barrier to make time cut
Roche alongside Tour's top men ahead of Pyrenees
Wiggins to aim for Tour de France stage win?
Dan Lloyd battles on in Tour despite groin strain
Bradley Wiggins: Tour rest day conference
Evans faces rough ride in yellow
Riis secures replacement sponsor but Shleck in doubt
Tour de France 2010: rest day review (July 12)
Armstrong's Tour de France dream ends
Sky's objective clear ahead of Tour's high mountains
The Feed Zone (July 10): Tour de France news and views
Tour de France 2010: Stage reports
Stage 12: Rodriguez wins as Contador attacks
Stage 11: Cavendish bags third stage win but lead out man kicked out of Tour
Stage 10: Cavendish bags third stage win but his lead-out man is kicked out of race
Stage 10: Paulinho claims narrow stage victory on Bastille day
Stage nine: Casar wins stage as Schleck and Contador go head-to-head
Stage seven: Chavanel wins stage and takes overall as Thomas drops out of Tour's white
Stage six: Cavendish makes it two as Tour hots up
Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour
Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims
Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC
Stage three live coverage: As it happened
Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa
Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters
Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win
Tour de France 2010: Photos
Stage 11 photo gallery
Stage 10 photo gallery
Stage nine photo gallery
Stage eight photo gallery
Tour 2010 wallpaper
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one gallery
Prologue photo gallery
Tour de France 2010: Videos
Stage 11 video highlights
Stage 10 video highlights
Stage nine video highlights
Stage eight video highlights
Stage seven video highlights
Stage six video highlights
Stage five video highlights
Stage four video highlights
Stage three video highlights
Stage two video highlights
Stage one video highlights
Prologue video highlights
Tour de France 2010: Race guide
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Official start list, with race numbers
Brits at the Tour 2010
Tout team guide
Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins
Tour de France 2010: Pictures
Tour team presentation, Rotterdam
Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special
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