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by Shane Stokes
July 16, 2015
Photography by Cor Vos
CAUTERETS, France (CT) – Although Alberto Contador is currently four minutes four seconds adrift of the yellow jersey in sixth place, far off the form he hoped to be showing in the Tour de France and arguably out of contention for victory, Peter Sagan insists the team is fully behind the Spaniard.
The Tinkoff-Saxo rider was speaking in Cauterets after the 11th stage of the Tour. Despite Rafal Majka winning the stage and Sagan taking over the green jersey once again as points leader, he said there is no question that Contador will not be given full backing.
“In terms of leaders, we have just one. And that is it,” he said when asked if his and Majka’s performances suggested that the team was looking to more than just its designated GC rider.
“We have to do every day..it depends on how is the stage. But Alberto is still in the game, I think, and we have to think about him.”
Sagan had started the day second overall in the points classification, three behind the leader Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal). The German had built up a strong haul in the opening nine days of the Tour, aided by his two stage wins, consistent placings and also his performances in the intermediate sprints.
However Sagan is regarded as a better rider when the course becomes lumpy, as evidenced by his Tour of California win, and he was able to pick up seventeen points for netting second in the intermediate sprint. Greipel placed ninth, taking seven.
“It was very hard for me, actually,” he said, speaking shortly after being given the green jersey. “From the start I was trying to go in the breakaway. But all the sprinters were on my wheel and they didn’t want that.
“After there was a small climb two kilometres from the sprint. We did full gas there because also the breakaway wants to go from the front. After that 50 riders remained at the front. I did the sprint but [Matteo] Trentin from Etixx beat me and I took just ten points [actually 17 – ed.]”
That was more than enough to lift him seven points clear of Greipel. Stating that he had lost a lot of energy in the opening part of the race, he sat back and rode home in the groupetto.
His aim was to conserve energy for the remaining ten stages, knowing that the battle for the green jersey could rage all the way to Paris.
“Everyone knows that my rival for the green jersey is André Greipel. Every day I have to study the stage to beat him,” he stated.
The Tinkoff-Saxo squad went into the Tour de France hopeful that Contador could take the overall win. Its confidence was boosted by his win in last year’s Vuelta a España plus this season’s Giro d’Italia.
However, thus far at least, the Spaniard has looked to be a shadow of his usual self. It is unclear if he can bounce back to challenge for yellow but, even if he does recover, he has a lot of work to do to get back on terms with Froome.
That start has been disappointing for him and the team but so too has been the news that Ivan Basso was diagnosed with testicular cancer and needed to leave the race.
He was successfully operated on Wednesday, though, and while he might need further treatments his prognosis is very good.
Sagan sees Wednesday as a potential turning point for the squad.
“I am very happy for the victory Rafal did for the team. I think now there will also be a better morale in the team,” he said.
“We will see day by day what we can do. I think the Tour de France is still on…”