LOURDES, France (VN) – A 39-year-old German father of six tore the Tour de France apart Thursday on its second major climb, the Col du Tourmalet. Leopard-Trek’s Jens Voigt called Thursday one of his best days on the bike and said his team leaders, Andy and Fränk Schleck, need at least three minutes on Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) before the penultimate day time trial in Grenoble.
“I just happened to be having a good day,” Voigt told VeloNews. “I could feel it, like on the Tourmalet when we started pulling, I felt good, like one of my best days. I told them, ‘I’m good, I’m good. Trust me and stay with me. I can go to the top.’”
Voigt said he was ordered to take control on the Tourmalet to reduce the group of favorites. “Forty would have been too many,” he said. The German pulled the yellow jersey group for nearly the entire hors categorie ascent in the Pyrénées, setting up Fränk Schleck to take time on his GC rivals atop the Luz-Ardiden finish. Schleck nearly stole the stage from Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez, but finished third, 10 seconds back. After Fabian Cancellara spent much of the Tour’s first 10 days shepherding Schleck and his younger brother Andy through hectic day after hectic day, Voigt said the squad is aimed singularly at the GC and does not aim for any stage wins.
“We didn’t come here with the objective of winning as many stages as we can,” he said. “Our only objective is to have one of the Schlecks in yellow in Paris. If there is another mountain jersey or green jersey, some stage wins along the way, we’re not chasing it. We just want to have yellow in Paris.”
Andy Schleck has twice finished second to Contador in the Tour. With only one step left to climb on the final podium, the team is forfeiting the opportunity to hunt stages.
“After all that’s still our plan,” said Voigt. “Yes, yesterday we could have maybe won a stage, but there’s always ‘could’ and ‘if’ but that doesn’t count. We were third, that’s great. We had Fränky gaining some time over the other favorites and hopefully we can keep going like this.”
Like many of his contemporaries, Voigt would not count Contador out of the GC, though the Spaniard is trailing overall leader Thomas Voekler (Europcar) by four minutes and Fränk Schleck by almost two minutes. Voigt said that Schleck needed at least another minute on Contador before the 42.5km stage 20 time trial in Grenoble.
“He is now two minutes behind the Schlecks, 1:40 behind Andy, so it’s definitely not out of reach. He has a huge advantage in the time trial. Don’t forget about that,” said Voigt. “So, to be really safe, we would rather have another minute on him in the last time trial. Alberto’s not out. Of course not.”