Had things gone fully to plan, Tinkoff Saxo rider Michael Rogers would be riding in support of team leader Alberto Contador, pacesetting the Spaniard towards a third Tour de France victory. Instead, Contador is out of the race and Rogers has had to acknowledge that a rival is the likely winner of this year’s Tour.
The Australian has said that he hasn’t seen any weak points thus far in Vincenzo Nibali’s Tour campaign. “I think he is very superior. He has got a very strong team. It seems to me like they are riding very smart as well,” he said.
“I think collectively Astana are really controlling the race. They are riding very smartly and conservatively and they are expending energy when they need to. At this point I think it is going to be very hard to beat Nibali.”
Yesterday’s stage to Chamrousse saw the hopes of Nibali’s closest rival detonate on the final climb to the line. Richie Porte had been second overall but slipped to sixteenth by the end of the stage; he’s out of the running for the general classification and must limit his ambitions to a stage win and a top ten in the GC.
“Everyone has a bad day, eh?” said Rogers, reacting to the development. “I noticed there the whole Sky team were wasting a lot of energy and I think they paid for it a little bit.”
The Tinkoff Saxo team is now in a similar position to Sky; they don’t have anyone in contention for yellow and are chasing stages to salvage their Tour. Rafal Majka went close yesterday, taking second behind Nibali, and he and the other riders will try again today.
Rogers picked up two stages in the Giro d’Italia and would jump at the chance to add a Tour stage win to his palmares. He said that there was little comparison between the two events, though, suggesting a Tour stage win would be more difficult to achieve.
“They are two different races. Obviously at the Tour there are five races within the race. There is a race for the mountain jersey, the team prize, the sprint jersey, the stage, the GC, the rest of it. There is never a dull moment compared to the Giro. At least the flat days there you will get a bit of respite, but there is no such thing here.”
He said the relentless pace, aggression and stress has been wearing riders down. “Out of my ten Tours, it has been the hardest first week I have ever experienced. Obviously you had England with the weather and the small roads and everybody thinking they can ride above their own level a little bit. Now they are all paying for it.”