Cancellara: “We’re comfortable, and in a good situation”
AURILLAC, France (VN) – While many of the other favorites have lost skin and time to crashes — if not crashing out entirely — Leopard-Trek’s two-brother GC front is sitting pretty. Fränk and Andy Schleck are now fourth and fifth overall, just three and 11 seconds behind BMC’s Cadel Evans, the highest-placed GC contender.
Although luck has been on their side, Leopard came to this Tour de France with the singular goal of winning the overall, and every man on the squad is an experienced veteran dedicated to keeping the Schlecks out of trouble until the real race begins in the mountains.
Consider the line-up: Fabian Cancellara, the world’s best time trialist and a well-respected rider. Stuart O’Grady, a Paris-Roubaix winner and super-domestique. And then, of course, the inimitable Jens Voigt.
Much in the way BMC safely sheparded Evans, Leopard keeps riders around the Schlecks at virtually all times during the race. Still, even a veteran like Voigt knows that luck still plays a role.
“We have to ride a lot on the front to keep the Schleck brothers out of trouble, which so far — touch wood — we have managed okay,” Voigt said.
It’s been an impressive performance by the first-year team, staffed by experienced hands and co-managed by Kim Andersen and Brian Nygaard.
Nygaard said he feels for the others who have crashed out.
“Sheer luck has been the major part of us avoiding crashes,” he said.
With nine stages completed, Cancellara said the team is well poised for the Pyrenees, with not just the Schleck brothers but also Jakob Fugslang as a GC contender. Fugslang is now 10th, 42 seconds behind Evans.
“For us it’s good,” Cancellara said. “There are not so many teams that have two cards — three cards even — with Frank, Andy and Jakob. We want to win the Tour. We’re comfortable, and we’re in a good situation. But it’s going to be hard for sure. The teams who have one leader will have to put us under pressure. But we will just have to ride in the way that we think is right for us, from here until Paris.”
Nygaard said that Leopard isn’t targeting stage wins, one or two may come their way in the course of racing.
“It would be hard to win this Tour without winning a stage. Time needs to be made somewhere,” he said, adding that no non-GC rider will be given lease to hunt stages. “There is so much racing coming up, we wouldn’t waste any energy in diverting from our primary goal.”