By Andrew Hood
Here’s what the main players said after Wednesday’s 173km 11th stage.
Lance Armstrong, Discovery Channel(sixth at 1:15, first overall)
On Vinokourov’s breakaway Whenever somebody is in a breakaway all day long, it’s always impressive. Like the other day, with Rasmussen, an all day effort is never easy. Vino wasn’t the main concern today. We can’t chase down everybody with five, six minutes. We have to prioritize, and he’s not on our list of priorities, so we let him out there, kept the team together, and controlled the tempo. We knew [Vinokourov] would attack today. We can’t say that we were surprised. Our objective today was to stay together. At six-and-a-half minutes on the general classification, he’s no longer on our list of priorities, at least for now. The goal on the first climb, we said as long as we can keep seven, eight, nine guys here, and at the end if we have five or six guys, we’ll be fine. As I said, if the goal was to win a stage, mission accomplished. If the goal was to blow up the Discovery team, mission not accomplished.
On Rasmussen in second place Rasmussen is riding strong. He’s climbing very well and he’s in second overall, and I don’t need to add anymore. He’s now a threat to the race. The other day he got how many minutes in a breakaway? We can’t do that anymore, he’s too close.
On Discovery Channel’s rebound A lot of people talked about Saturday, and the disappointment that we saw, but I think Saturday is very different than what we see know. I think the boys were caught by surprise then, maybe we were too confident. We probably worked too much in the first week. The climbs that we are doing know are very different than the climbs we did on Saturday. On the contrary, All the questions about the how the team could turn around so quickly, we could ask the same questions about the people that were on the front on Saturday – why aren’t the on the front now? I think the boys were so focused on getting through the first week, getting through the Alps, all of a sudden this day popped up in the middle that was a lot harder than they expected, and they were caught off guard. It happened. I didn’t like it, nobody liked it, but they’re pros, they’re all champs, and they were more upset than I was or Johan was. You should have seen their faces that night. They were clearly disappointed.
George Hincapie, Discovery Channel(24th at 1:15, 23rd at 12:15 back)
On Vino’s attack We didn’t want to let Vino back in the race. He’s a tough competitor, but he had a bad day yesterday. We didn’t want to get too much time. We let them go, we wanted to keep them within a minute. We knew if we did our tempo, they wouldn’t get much time. A couple of guys started to get dropped and when it was just Botero and Vino, we knew it would be easier to control. Vino went faster than we thought. It was a phenomenal ride for him today.
On the hairy descent off the Galibier The descent was tough, but when you’re going to 70kph and you’re pulling, even the downhill is tough. I’m glad tomorrow isn’t a mountain day and hopefully nothing too dramatic happens.
On leading most of the way up the hors categorie climb I know that climb well. I know if there weren’t any big attacks I could do it. It was hard in the last kilometer, but I made it. Lance is feeling good. He looks super-strong and he’s happy with us and how things are going so far.
Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank (9th at 1:15, second at 0:38)
On Wednesday’s stage It was a hard stage today. I was hoping to put some time into Lance, but he was too strong. His team set such a hard pace it was impossible to attack.
On Armstrong’s comments that Rasmussen is a classy rider I really appreciated hearing that. I don’t know if I can challenge him all the way. We’ll see how the legs are feeling in the Pyrenees. It would be great to try to get the yellow jersey for a few days.
Cadel Evans, Davitamon-Lotto (7th at 1:15, 14th at 5:55)
On whether he’ll attack I’m not that kind of rider, I’m not a Vinokourov or a Jens Voigt. I’m a GC rider. That’s my physique and suits my mentality better. So far, so good. Yesterday was a bit, well, I wasn’t at my best level, but it wasn’t bad. It’s still early days yet. I missed a lot of days racing and training before coming here, I wasn’t expecting to be at my best in the first week. Let’s hope for the second half.
Georg Totsching, Gerolsteiner(10th at 1:15, 22nd at 11:43)
On recovering from illness that hurt him Tuesday I’m not good enough for the Tour de France that I wanted to make. I was sick for one week really bad after the Tour de Suisse. I did hope to become better in the first week, but in these fast stages it’s not possible to come back. It’s not easy for me to find the motivation now.
On whether he’ll ride for Leipheimer I will see from day to day. If I cannot make big things here, maybe I can help Levi in the next stages. It was for me very hard the first week to accept it’s not possible to ride with the best, but that’s the sport.
On whether anyone can beat Armstrong It looks like it’s a race for second place.
Ivan Basso, Team CSC(13th at 1:15, fourth at 2:40)
On his form I was not happy with my ride Tuesday. I wasn’t able to stay with Armstrong as I expected to be able to do. My legs weren’t 100 percent, just a little bit off. I couldn’t find that rhythm I needed in the pedals. I felt better today, but the stage was more controlled. It wasn’t a stage to try anything because the finish was too far from the final climb. I believe this Tour will be decided in the Pyrenees, so I hope to be at my best then.
Santiago Botero, Phonak(2nd at same time, sixth at 3:48)
On his chances Wednesday I knew it would be difficult to beat Vino in the sprint, he’s so strong. He’s a great rider to be in an escape with, he’s strong and motivated. I tried to drop him on the downhill. I made up the 40 seconds quite easily on the top part of the descent that was quite tricky, but from there it was wide open to Briancon like a highway. It’s nice to be back at the Tour in top form, riding for stage victories. I had hoped to be better situated in the GC, but I made up some time today. We’ll keep trying.