Sammy Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) saw his podium chances improve dramatically in Tuesday’s battle over the Col de la Madeleine, but one of the peloton’s best descenders faltered on his favored terrain.
Sánchez was the only GC contender to stay close to Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Alberto Contador (Astana) when the pair attacked up the hors-categorie climb, but suffered cramps on the descent that torpedoed his chances of latching onto the leaders and going for the stage victory.
“I really suffered when Contador and Schleck attacked on the Madeleine. I couldn’t follow them and I decided to go at my rhythm to try to catch them later on the descent,” Sánchez said. “Later I cramped up and I couldn’t close the gap.”
Sánchez clawed within 10 seconds of Contador and Schleck, but didn’t quite have the legs to reel them in. Once the race hit the final flats to the line, Sánchez ceded 52 seconds to the leading pair.
Tuesday’s stage result now presents the Olympic champion with a double-edged sword. Sánchez climbed into third overall at 2:45 back, but now he realizes he won’t have as much rope to try to chase down a stage victory.
“This Tour is just starting. There’s a lot of race ahead. I am confident I won’t crack, but you pay for these efforts later,” Sánchez told El Correo at the line. “Now I am better placed on GC and it will be more difficult for them to let me go. I’m in the mix. Nothing’s settled in this Tour. Schleck and Contador have very strong teams around them. Ours is more modest.”
When asked how he felt to have lost the stage, but gained an edge on the podium, Sánchez replied: “Dead, right now I am dead.”