Yesterday’s stage to St Etienne paid tribute to Andrei Kivilev – who died after crashing on a stage of the 2003 Paris-Nice that was finishing in the town. The stage passed through the Kazakh’s former adopted hometown of Sorbiers and, in the final few kilometres, across a roundabout named after him.
The mercury may have already been in the 30s, but Cannondale’s Jean-Marc Marino got a warmer reception than most for yesterday’s stage finish in St Etienne. His sister lives in nearby Valance and he had a small welcoming party of enthusiastic nephews and nieces to high five after crossing the line. “See you in the morning at the start,” they shouted after him as he climbed aboard the team bus.
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Spotted at the roadside:
A spectator with a placard protesting about the price of Center Parcs
Mountains loom for Dempster
David de la Cruz’s spectacular crash out of the race while in the breakaway yesterday spelt a lonely night for Zak Dempster.
“He’s my roommate,” the Australian who used to race on the British circuit explained. “It’s a real shame. It’s heart-breaking really.”
“No one wants to get off at the Tour,” he added. “Well, Cancellara did. But for a team like us, for anyone, it’s a dream to be here.”
“Cadel, just a few years ago won the bloody thing, then he rode just to finish it with broken ribs. Hopefully one day David will be back here.”
It was with this kind of respect for the Tour that Tour debutant Dempster was looking ahead to the mountains today.
“Now it’s time to suffer like a dog through the hardest part but anything that’s easy is not really worth doing.”
“It’s the Tour de France for a reason because it’s the best and hardest bike race in the world.
“I trained really hard and it’s a dream to be here so I’m not going to give up without a fight.”
Max against Sagan
Astonishing as it seems, Peter Sagan of Cannondale still hasn’t won a stage. According to points jersey wearer Sagan, part of the problem is that the peloton knows all about him now, so the element of surprise is long gone.
Which suggests that nobody is willing to ride with the Cannondale rider, since the odds of beating the Slovak are slim. Is Sagan a liability in a break then? Not according to BMC sport director Max Sciandri.
“I tell my riders that of course I would ride in a break that had Sagan in it, even if on paper he had 70 per cent chance of winning and I only had 10 per cent.
“With Sagan in the move, at least you know Cannondale won’t chase, so you would ride in the break and with 10km to go, you then start to work out how best to play your cards.
“On a Tour stage, your 10 per cent chance of beating Sagan is still better than the even smaller odds if you stay in the bunch. Plus, in a break of six or seven guys there are always alliances that you can exploit. So, even with Sagan in the move, even with only 10 per cent chance of the win, you still ride, you still go for it.”
Good news for the bold breakaway riders, but maybe less so for the Slovakian.
Recording of Cycling Weekly’s daily Tour de France podcast was interrupted last night by a man intent on showing our crew his yellow pants. It was all relevant material, thankfully. The undergarments were official TdF merchandise.
Contador latest (rumour)
Word emanating from lose-lipped team mates of Alberto Contador in the Tinkoff-Saxo Bank team is that although his tibia fracture isn’t going to require an operation or pins, the wound on his left leg, around the inside of his knee, is causing a more concern, seeing as it is deeper cut than many first believed (or noticed).
Days like these
Riders’ agent (and ex-pro) Joona Laukka was working the team buses at the stage 11 finish in Oyonnax, pressing the flesh of his clients and team managers alike.
But the news of Bauke Mollema’s likely signing for Trek didn’t surprise him. “In days like these, with so much uncertainty, it’s not a surprise that he signed. If it had been me, with nobody sure about Belkin getting a new sponsor, I think it makes sense,” said the Finn.
And did that uncertainty spread to the much-discussed Alonso team? “Hmmm. I’m not so sure that will happen,” added Laukka, “I don’t see it working.”
Omega still rolling, rolling
Tom Steels, assistant directeur sportif at Omega Pharma, was upbeat in Oyonnax, even if his team didn’t nick another win (though Matteo Trentin was still third).
“It was tough when Mark crashed out, but you know, all of the guys here are good riders in their own right. If Mark had been here, they would have been working for him, but the day after Mark pulled out, we had a good team talk, we reminded them that they were capable of winning themselves and we were lucky, in a way, that Trentin won so early in the race.
“When that happens, confidence goes up and then Tony’s amazing win just kept it rolling and growing. We could end the Tour here, after 11 stages and we could still say we had a good Tour,” said Steels, a man who also knows the joy of winning Champs Elysees sprint.
Spotted at the roadside:
A spectator dressed at Darth Vader.
Gallopin on (and on)
After his nephew Tony took the yellow jersey at Mulhouse, Trek sport director Allain Gallopin (and Tony’s coach) thought that was probably as good as it was going to get. But the Lotto rider’s win in Oyonnax put a smile on Uncle Alain’s face all over again.
“To be honest, I was more emotional in Mulhouse,” confessed Gallopin, “but he’s finally showing what he is capable of as a rider. Tony has progressed slowly but surely. I’m not sure he has reached his limits, he can climb well and with the right programme he could make a GC rider, finish top 10 in the Tour.”
Notes from stage 11 in Besancon.