Tour de France 2020

Astana resting its climbers for the mountains

Astana's climbers have been off the back lately because they'll need to be off the front come the mountains.

For the past two stages, four Astana riders have floated across the finish line well behind the main group, leaving many to wonder what’s going on within the Astana camp.

Alberto Contador says it’s a strategy to keep his team as fresh as possible for the looming fight in the Alps and Pyrénées.

“We planned it that way because the finishes are always tense and nervous, and there’s a risk of crashing,” Contador said. “It’s better that they can roll in without this pressure and be stronger later in the race.”

It happened for the first time Thursday, when Paolo Tiralongo and David de la Fuente crossed the line 5:23 back and Dani Navarro and Jesus Hernandez crossed at 6:06. The same four riders sat up Friday and drifted across the line, with Navarro and Hernandez crossing nearly nine minutes in arrears.

Those four riders are the key players who will help pace Contador through the upcoming climbing stages.

Team officials denied a report that Hernández is sick, and simply said they want to try to have the team as fresh as possible for this weekend’s first foray into the Alps.

“There are other teams who have to make the race hard and they need to take responsibility of the race,” Contador said Friday. “One thing I’ve learned the past few years is patience. I don’t want to have too much responsibility on my team too early. We will take it when the time is right, so maybe I don’t need to attack in the Alps.”

Contador said he relieved that he’s leaving the challenging first week in the rear-view mirror and heading into his favored ground in the mountains.

“The first week was complicated. I was feeling sore from my crash (Monday), but luckily I wasn’t seriously injured. Tuesday was a big success to get across the cobblestones,” he said. “I am in good position in the GC. I always like to attack and sometimes I cannot help myself. We just need to ride in an intelligent manner.”