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LISIEUX, France (VN) — With the real battle of the Tour de France still looming, Leopard-Trek sport director Kim Andersen says the Schleck brothers are trying to stay as quiet as possible in the first hectic week of the race.
While arch-rival Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) has been battling through crashes and time losses, including two falls in Wednesday’s fifth stage, the Schleck brothers have been floating through the opening stages without any major mishaps.
Andersen told VeloNews that it’s too early to draw any conclusions, but said they’re pleased to have a head-start on Contador.
“We are not doing anything right now except trying to avoid losing time and avoid crashes,” Andersen said at Thursday’s start. “It’s better to have a little bit of an advantage than to be behind. It’s never easy to take time on Contador. Of course, it’s better to be at the front.”
Leopard-Trek will now have to assume more responsibility in the race, but that’s something Andersen said the team is ready to take on. Six of Leopard-Trek’s starting nine Tour riders were with Bjarne Riis in last year’s Saxo Bank-Sungard Tour squad, so the Schleck brothers can count on solid support when the decisive moments of the course arrive in the Massif Central, the Pyrénées and Alps. Andersen said the most important thing for the Schleck brothers is to avoid the falls and bad luck that can strike a GC contender at any moment.
“This Tour is just starting, it’s too early to make conclusions about anyone’s form. There are so many mountains still to come,” he said. “We need to see the real mountains to see who is the best between us and Contador and the others.”
Andersen also shot down the notion that the team is riding exclusively for Andy Schleck, twice runner-up to Contador in the past two Tours.
“Frank is good. Maybe it’s a surprise to you, but we know that Frank is strong. So is Andy,” Andersen said. “Of course, they are ready for the Tour. Either one can win this Tour.”
Dean: ‘All for Thor and Tyler’
Julian Dean – the New Zealand sprinter at Garmin-Cervélo – says this year he will be riding exclusively for Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar in the sprints. That doesn’t come as much of a surprise, especially considering that before working as the top lead-out man for Farrar the veteran Kiwi did the same job for Hushovd at Credit Agricole.
Last year, however, Dean quietly posted the best Tour results of his career, notching two second places and one third in the final half of the Tour after Farrar left the race with injury. Dean says that won’t be in the cards this year, unless something goes horribly wrong with the team’s sprinting duo.
“My job this year is to help those two guys,” Dean told VeloNews. “First off, I am not in the same condition and form as I had last year. I’ve had a few problems in the lead-up to the Tour. And when you have two sprinters as strong and fast as these two guys, that’s what I will be doing, to help them win stages.”
Dean also said the team is enjoying its success, with two stage victories and the yellow jersey in the opening week of the 2011 Tour.
“I think it’s really reflective of the process that the team has had to go through to get to this level of success,” Dean said. “We’re a group of six-seven core guys who have been here for the long haul. We’ve all worked hard to create this and it’s nice to finally to enjoy this success and taking the knowledge that we are forming one of the best teams in the world.”
Yellow: Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) sprinted to third in the stage to defend the maillot jaune by one second to Cadel Evans (BMC). “The team has done a great job protecting me since the first day in the yellow jersey. I hope to keep it until we reach Super-Besse. Although I can climb pretty well, I don’t expect to keep the jersey after that,” Hushovd said.
Green: Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) narrowly defended the points jersey by one point to José Rojas (Movistar), who was relegated in Wednesday’s intermediate sprint. Rojas took back points on Gilbert in the intermediate and final sprint, but Gilbert defended the jersey, 144-143. “I don’t expect to keep the green jersey tomorrow. It’s a flat stage and I will lose a lot of points. I came to this Tour to win a stage and wear the yellow jersey, and I’ve already done both, so this Tour is already a success,” Gilbert said.
Polka-dot: Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) snagged the points at the Cat. 3. Cote du Bourg d’Ouilly to claim four points and move into the King of the Mountains lead. Cadel Evans (BMC), who raced Thursday with the distinctive jersey, is second with two points. With no rated climbs Friday, Hoogerland will ride the KoM jersey into Saturday’s stage ending at Super-Besse.
White: Geraint Thomas (Sky) retained the best young rider’s jersey. “Edvald and I are rooming together during the Tour. He’s been wanting to take the white jersey from me, but I told him I would help him win a stage. Today, I helped to lead him out and I keep the jersey, so we’re both happy,” Thomas said.
Stage-winner: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) won his first career Tour stage that was also the first Tour stage victory for Team Sky.
Best team: Garmin-Cervélo retained its lead in the team classification
Most aggressive: Adriano Malori (Lampre)
Amael Moinard (BMC) – bitten by a wasp, treated during the race
Sylvain Chavanel (Quick-Step) – shoulder pain from Wednesday’s crash
- 1000CHF fine for team mechanic of Europcar for having material ready outside of the vehicle (Article 12.1.040.21)
- 200CHF fine for Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Torsten Schmidt (sport director Leopard-Trek) for not following instructions from jury and race director (Article 12.1.040.28)
- 100CHF for Andriy Grivko (Astana) and Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) for public urination (Article 12.1.040.29)
- 30CHF fine for Lars Bak (HTC-Highroad) and Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) for bidon collé (Article 12.1.040.37) – first infraction
- 50CHF for sport directors Brian Holm (HTC-Highroad) and Dmiitry Konyshev (Katusha) for above infraction
Ivan Velasco (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who crashed during Wednesday’s stage, did not start. Vasil Kiryienka (Movistar), a stage-winner at the Giro d’Italia this year, missed the time cut (hors délai) at 27:55 behind the stage-winner.
More scattered showers in mostly cloudy skies, with 10kph to 20kph southernly winds and temperatures around 20C.