It’s true that the slight Spaniard doesn’t seem to have his usual sparkle but it’s still a long way to Paris and as Dario Cioni says; ‘Grand Tours are won in the third week.’
Nonetheless, it’s a more competitive Tour than anyone anticipated and that can only be a good thing.
If the yellow and green jerseys remained on the same shoulders last night, the dots will have to be scrubbed off Johny Hoogerland’s Ridley – Sammy Sanchez and his Orbea go top on 40 points.
And Gesink surrenders white to France’s Arnold Jeannesson; two French men in classement jerseys – no wonder there’s so much Tour on the TV.
But spare a thought for Welshman Geraint Thomas; despite waiting patiently – but in vain – by the road side for felled team mate Wiggins and dropping three minutes plus, he’s still only 4:31 off the white jersey.
And remember that he was in the break for 187 K yesterday and would have struggled badly on Luz Ardiden.
Sky should have let Geraint remain in the safety of the bunch that day and assessed the damage to Wiggins before throwing away the white jersey.
But anyway, I don’t drive the Sky team car.
This will be our fourth stage and we’ve hardly spoken to anyone on the race; let’s put that right.
The start in Pau, the buses arrive, we pounce to ask for takes on le 2011 Tour.
Koos Moerenhout, former Dutch elite road race champion now on Rabobank staff:
‘It’s a bit weird for me, I was a rider for so long and now I’m around the race, but not in it.
As a rider you have the physical effort, but as a staff member there’s much more mental effort involved; you constantly have to be thinking about what’s happening in the race and also on the organisational side.
We came into the race with big goals and whilst we’ve won a stage with Luis Leon Sanchez – and that’s something that not a lot of teams have done – it’s disappointing that Robert Gesink lost so much time, yesterday.
We have to re-focus now and go for stage wins; Laurens Ten Dam is in good shape and so is Lars Boom (Boom actually quit the race later that day) – with Luis Leon Sanchez you never know how he’ll go but Barredo is also another possible for us.’
Craig Geater, long time Disco and Radio Shack mechanic.
‘It’s not been a lucky Tour for us, we lost Chris Horner and Brajkovic through crashes and then Popovych developed a fever, he had a temperature of 38 degrees, spent the whole rest day in his bed but couldn’t continue.
Klodi is banged up pretty bad from that crash, yesterday, he landed pretty hard (and would retire later that day).
Levi seems to be going OK, I think that a few of the guys that are above him on GC will slide down and he could make it back up into the top ten – he has the time trial on his side.
Voeckler is the big surprise, maybe he’ll drift away, but you never know, it could be his year?
Danielson looks good and so does Evans – but they usually have bad days, don’t they?
Basso looked really good yesterday, he seems set for the top five.’
Gianni Meersman, FDJ rider:
‘It’s my first Tour; a lot of crowds, a lot of stress, a big media circus!
We’ve had 12 days of racing with rain on six of them, coupled with the fact that everybody wants to be at the front it makes racing very dangerous.
Morale in the team is good, Jeremy Roy was happy to take the prime on the Tourmalet yesterday, and of course we have Arnold Jeannesson in the young rider’s jersey – we’ll be defending that.
Today and tomorrow are days for Sandy Casar, he really wants to get in the break – a stage win has to be our goal, but it’s not going to be easy!’
Frank Kwanten, PR with Vacansoleil.
‘Johny Hoogerland is feeling a little better every day, after his crash.
What we have to careful of is that he doesn’t compensate for his injuries by sitting out of his usual position – that way you can develop other strains and injuries.
We’re happy with how the race has gone so far but our goal remains a stage win.
But irrespective, we’ve raced an attractive race with riders like Hoogerland and Feillu, in the sprints.
And we’ve been accessible to the fans and media, as well as giving our sponsors value for their investment.
It was unfortunate that Thomas De Gendt crashed on the first stage, breaking the head off his collarbone, he’s getting a little better each day and is actually more comfortable on the climbs than on the flat – the cadence is lower and he can stand on the pedals and ease his position.
Of course it didn’t help that he crashed again a few days later!’
Wilfried Peeters, DS QuickStep:
‘We didn’t have a lucky week one; but the Tour isn’t finished until we reach Paris.
Today will hopefully be a good day for us, we’ll try to get in the break.
We lost Boonen in a crash and Steegmans is out now, too – his scaphoid is broken.
We still have Ciolek for the sprints, but he’s a little tired, now.
Sylvain is getting better, he was in the break yesterday but I think we’ll see more of him next week, he’ll have recovered by then.’
Dmitri Konychev, DS Katusha:
‘We lost our sprinter Galimyzanov yesterday – he didn’t beat the time cut; he had bad legs on the first climb and you can’t ride a stage like that on your own.
We’d have liked to have had Karpets challenging for a top ten position but he’s nine minutes down and that’s not going to be possible.
We have to concentrate on the breakaway, we have Karpets, Silin and Gusev for that role.
Almost all of our guys have crashed but fortunately, nothing too serious.
The situation with Alexandre Kolobnev (+ test) is a strange one, the substance is on the list, but it’s not one which will help you to go fast – but we’ll respect the counter analysis.’
Paolo Barbieri, PR with Liquigas:
‘The Tour is the main stage and it’s good for the team to be back performing on it.
Ivan Basso has prepared for this race; once he had to let his Giro dream go, this became the goal.
But the crash whilstt training on Etna was an obstacle, it meant he could not test himself in a race situation because he could not ride the Dauphine – which was his original plan.
He has been achieving the numbers in training but a rider needs to find the answers on the road; test himself.
Yesterday was his first test; and he passed it, he said that he followed his feelings – and they were good!’
Brunhilde Verhenne, PR with Lotto:
Every stage we try to do our best; we had a GC goal for Jurgen Van Den Broeck; but we also wanted a stage win as early as possible for Phil on the way to fulfilling his dream of wearing the yellow jersey.
And we wanted a stage win for Andre Greipel.
Obviously the GC goal for Jurgen disappeared in the crash – but that’s bike racing!
He said he wasn’t going to watch the race on TV when he got home – but he has been.
Jurgen apart though, we achieved the other three goals.
Now we’re focusing on the green jersey for Phil – but we know it will be difficult with Cavendish, Rojas and Evans coming into the picture in the mountains, but maybe it’s possible?’
Matteo Tosatto, Saxo Bank:
‘This is my eighth Tour, I first rode it in 1997.
There’s much more press and media now – and more stress for the riders, not just on the race but before and after it.
I rode the Giro this year too, but at 37 I’m used to hard work!
I think our possibilities for Alberto are still good – yes.’
Brad McGee, DS Saxo Bank:
‘I feel happily challenged!
Obviously the crashes weren’t in our plan but Alberto hasn’t lost his morale; he missed a little yesterday but it is what it is.
Evans was good yesterday and so were the Schleckies – and Basso too.
I saw him yesterday morning, he was smiling, had his team around him and he looked ready for the job – it’s good for the sport to see him back up there.
But I think that everyone forgets that this race could all be down to the final time trial in Grenoble – if Alberto goes in to that 45 seconds down, I’ll be happy.’
Patrick Lefevre, Manager, QuickStep:
It’s not been as good a race for us as last year, we had stage wins and jerseys by this time.
This year we’ve ridden from one crash to the next!
Boonen, Steegmans, and Chavanel have all had bad crashes.
Ciolek was in good shape but developed a very bad saddle sore – he’s taken anti biotics and he’s still in the race but we have to be careful that doesn’t get infected.
Our tactics now are to go in the breakaways and hope they stay away.
I think there’s more equilibrium in the race this year – Contador is not as strong.
But it’s also a very tactical race – and you should remember that a super Contador or a good Evans can claim a minute back in the time trial at Grenoble.’