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CHAMBÉRY, France (VN) — Denis Menchov entered the 2012 Tour de France flying under the radar as a quiet contender for the final podium. In stage 11’s high mountains, Menchov (Katusha) slammed back to earth.
The Russian bled 14 minutes on the day, which featured two hors categorie climbs and a Cat. 1 to end the stage, up to the ski station of La Toussuire. The falter effectively derailed his Tour de France general classification hopes.
“Today it was a bad day for me, and that’s a surprise also for me because during the last days I felt OK,” he said. “Actually I can’t say the reason why I dropped like this. I couldn’t keep the pace of favorite riders’ group, so I dropped and continued with my pace.”
Menchov’s was a name bandied about as a favorite coming into the 99th Tour, certainly not on the level of Bradley Wiggins (Sky) or Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), but he was considered someone that could at least challenge for the podium in Paris.
His pedigree is exceptional. Menchov has won the Vuelta a España twice, the Giro d’Italia once and finished second and third at the Tour. But he rode through the entirety of the spring without much to show and came into the Tour a dark horse.
It cannot be easy for a rider of Menchov’s caliber to suffer in such a manner, but he displayed grace nonetheless.
“I have to thank also my teammates because they waited for me,” he said. “Now obviously the goal of trying to fight for the final win is gone. Anyway, I can still aim for a good position in the general classification.
“What happened to me can happen to anybody else.”