Danish investment firm wants "good cooperation" with Tinkov
With their agreement due to expire at the end of the current season, Danish investment firm Saxo Bank has extended its sponsorship of Bjarne Riis' team for one more year.
Saxo Bank founder Lars Seier Christensen told Ritzau that they had come to an arrangement with co-sponsor Oleg Tinkov.
"We have committed to the team again. And we've also come to a definitive agreement with our Russian friend," Christensen said.
Tinkov said earlier this month that he was likely to up his stake in the team which would result in the squad being named Tinkoff Bank-Saxo Bank. Christensen indicated that the slight name change may well be on the cards.
"I am not particularly swayed to one or the other. So it can be anything. I guess basically it's a question of who would want it most. That is a question of money," he explained.
"We would like to have a good cooperation with Oleg. I have 'commited' to next year. It's now about what Oleg will do."
On the final climb of the category 2 Col de Manse, and the tricky descent that preceded the line in Gap, Froome and Porte withstood a number of attacks from Alberto Contador, one of which caused the Spaniard to crash and Froome to swerve around into the grass.
Though Froome had to unclip and drop his bike, the Sky captain came away unscathed, although with a significantly higher heart rate.
Porte was at his side, quick to lead him down the mountain and bring back their previous companions, including second placed Bauke Molleman (Belkin) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
"They threw everything at us on that last climb, but we expected that. Katusha was absolutely brilliant there, they took it up and made it a hard climb. There are some guys on GC that got gapped today."
Porte wasn't sure that Contador gave everything he had into the numerous attacks. "I think he knew even if he got a gap it was goign to come back, I don't think he attacked full gas," he said.
The surges did help to shuffle the top 10 around. Losing time were Michal Kwiatkowski, at 1:39 from Quintana in the young riders for the stage, and Laurens ten Dam (Belkin).
"I didn't know Ten Dam was.. how far back was he? If they want to ride for second place, then good on them. I'll support them in that."
Despite his flashy new saddle design, the Spaniard was practically invisible in the first two weeks of the race. With the Tour now in its final stages, Rodríguez seems to have found some of his form. This weekend he finished an impressive fourth on Mont Ventoux to move himself from 10th to eight.
The Katusha rider jumped another place on stage 16, after Jakob Fuglsang failed to make the decisive cut in the final kilometres and lost a minute to the other GC riders. Another step closer to the top, Rodríguez is happy with the way he's going but still feels like he can get much more out of this year's Tour.
"It's a great pleasure to move up a place, but I haven't got onto the podium yet," he said after the stage. "I would like to do well, and I will give my maximum this week. We are in the high mountains this week, and it's a very important and hard week. There are still three more big stages and there are people with very tired legs and a lot of fatigue."
Currently there is a gulf of two minutes and 36 seconds that separate Rodríguez and the rider in third, Alberto Contador. The Saxo-Tinkoff rider has looked shaky, most recently on Mont Ventoux when he lost 1:40 to Chris Froome and 17 seconds to his the Katusha rider.
Rodríguez thinks that there is still time to make up the gap and take his first Tour de France podium. "Why not?" he said, when asked if he really thought it was possible. "Tomorrow is a good time trial and a hard time trial. I have some good sensations and I think that I can get third place. First is for the English, second the Colombians and third I want for me."
Rodríguez's time trialling skills have never been a point of pride for the Spaniard, who has lost Grand Tours, more than once, in a time trial. However, he performed well at last year's mountain time trial at the Vuelta and will be hoping to channel his performance there into the 32 kilometres from Embrun to Chorges.
Almost since the Tour started, there has been talk about a possible Spanish union against Froome in an attempt to take the yellow jersey for one of their own. We saw inklings of this when the Tour first ventured into the mountains. Movistar looked to react to an order from Contador, to attack. Despite this and having a good friendship with his fellow compatriots, Rodríguez says that his loyalties lie with his team. "No it won't happen, because I race for Katusha and the others riders for Saxo-Tinkoff and Alejandro [Valverde] rides for Movistar, and they all want their places in the general classification."
Neither Contador nor Rodríguez look likely to risk their own podium place for the other and with Nairo Quintana in with a shout of a top three placing, Valverde is unlikely to play a part in any union. While the yellow jersey looks to be all but confirmed for Froome, the battle for second and third could see some sparks flying.
"That's why I tried to go in the break today, I was thinking about the stage win," Martin said as he was warming down after stage 16. "I'm not even thinking about the top 10. It's almost an inconvenience that I'm there on top 10, but I'm not going to lose time on purpose."
The Garmin rider already has one victory to his name, after defeating Jakob Fuglsang in the final sprint to the line. Martin lost some time today when the split was made on the final climb. He sits just on the edge of the top 10, with Michal Kwiatkowski only nine seconds back.
If he is to finish in the top 10, he will be the first Irishman to do so since Stephen Roche's ninth place in 1992.
Gilbert, along with teammate Manuel Quinziato made the 26-man breakaway from which Rui Costa (Movistar) eventually attacked for the stage win. It was a position that World Champion Gilbert was only able to be in with team leader Cadel Evans definitively out of contention for the general classification's top 10.
"But with an eighth place today I'm not happy," Gilbert told Sporza. “This was a missed opportunity."
The topic of the change of tactics from BMC irked Gilbert.
"I've had enough questions about Evans and Van Garderen," he stated. "Our tactics have changed, yes. The race is like that now. It was nice to spend a day at the front and this is the main thing. "
Gilbert said he was not surprised to see Costa attack on the Col de Manse and go on to win the stage.
"The tailwind we had all day made it hard racing, especially on the climb," Gilbert said. "I knew Costa was the rider to follow because without the incident on Stage 13 where his teammate, Alejandro Valverde, lost time, he would have been up there with the top contenders."
Gilbert crossed the finish line 1:04 in arrears of Costa, leading home a group of seven of his original breakaway companions.
In fact, Martin's record is so good that since taking his World Championship title in October last year, he's only been beaten once in the chrono and that was in the Prologue at the Tour of Romandie.
The 32km ITT between Embrun and Chorges is vastly different in terrain from the race against the clock witnessed on stage 11. Instead of a slightly undulating parcours, two climbs await the 179 men left in the peloton. The first, just 6.5km into the stage, the Cat. 2 Côte de Puy-Sanières is followed by the slightly longer and harder Cat. 2 Côte de Réallon with 12km left to race.
Svein Tuft (Orica GreenEdge) will be the first man out of the start house at 10:17am local time, Martin will leave at 12:39pm while Froome as race leader will be last away at 4:33pm.
A look back at the events of stage 11 saw Martin get the better of Froome by 12 seconds and the race leader's climbing skills should give him an edge this time around and a third stage victory. Martin said as much to AFP.
"If I say I am going to win on Wednesday, I might as well say that I am also capable of winning at L'Alpe d'Huez," he admitted.
"With the right motivation and if the circumstances are perfect, then I could get lucky, but this is not a classic time-trial."
The wet conditions forecast however, could play into the hands of Alberto Contador as the Saxo-Tinkof, Sky arm-wrestle for the top step in Paris builds momentum over the final week of racing with the Spaniard 4:25 behind Froome. No doubt keen to build on the fact that he unsettled Froome en route to Gap, Contador is again poised to attack.
"If it rains at all, then it is a course than suits him well, but if the ground is drier he will not be able to make as big a difference on the downhills," said Saxo-Tinkoff directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit.
"Chris [Froome] should be superior on the climbs, but it is not a bad route for Alberto, that is clear. It should favour him."
Contador's last victory in a grand tour time trial was at the 2011 Giro d'Italia, on a shorter and more-challenging parcours.
Second overall, Bauke Mollema (Belkin) is just 11 seconds ahead of Contador and in his last hit-out before the Tour, finished third in the uphill time trial. The Dutchman finished in a respectable 11th place on stage 11 but should post an improved result on Wednesday's stage given his climbing strength.
"It's quite tricky, but I hope I can take time on Contador," Mollema said of the stage. "With two climbs, I fancy my chances on the parcours. The previous time trial gave me a lot of morale."
Dehaes, Devolder, Albasini and ten Dam in the news
The official transfer season doesn't start until August 1 under UCI rules, but that doesn't stop the flow of early negotiations, rumours and news of riders extending their contracts with their present squads.
Lotto Belisol has been busily re-signing as many of its riders as it can during the Tour de France and the latest is Kenny Dehaes. He has already brought in four wins this season, including the GP Dubois this week. Andre Greipel, Adam Hansen and Greg Henderson have agreed new contracts for the next two years.
"I'm really happy with the extension of my contract and with the confidence that the team shows in me," Fehaes said on the team's website. "Racing for a team such as Lotto Belisol is very pleasant because it's like being in a family or in a group of close friends, in which everyone supports each other unconditionally.”
Michael Albasini is said to have re-upped with Orica-GreenEdge, according Srf.ch. The 32-year old has been with the Australian team since 2012 and will now stay with them another two years.
That means Albasini will not be joining IAM, where his father Marcello is a directeur sportif. But Swiss rider Mathias Frank may well be heading there. After five years with BMC Racing Team, he is leaving, team owner Andy Rihs has confirmed to the tagesanzeiger.ch.
Stijn Devolder has not yet signed, but has agreed to ride for the new look Team Trek that will rise from the ashes of Radioshack-Leopard. The Belgian joined the team this season after what the Gazet van Antwerpen called “two absolutely disastrous years” with Vacansoleil-DCM.
Laurens ten Dam would very much like to stay with Belkin, where his contract expires after this season. AD.nl reports that his manager and team management are in negotiations. The Dutch rider, who is currently sixth overall in the Tour de France, is also said to have attracted the interest of Argos-Shimano and Saxo-Tinkoff.
If one Quintana is good, then two are even better. Tuttobiciweb.it reports that Movistar has offered a contract to Nairo Quintana's younger brother, Dayer, who turns 22 next month, has impressed in several Spanish Under 23 races this season.
Movistar may well have an open sport on its roster for next year, as yesterday's Tour de France stage winner Rui Costa's contract expires the end of this season. He has announced that he will not start any negotiations until after the Tour de France ends. A number of teams are interested, but Biciciclismo predicts that he will probably re-sign with Movistar, even though some of the other offers may be financially better.
With Vacansoleil-DCM still looking for a sponsor for the future, its riders have started looking for news teams for their futures. Lieuwe Westra is said to be on the verge of signing a two-year contract with Astana, according to NUsport.nl. Saxo-Tinkoff and Lotto Belisol had also expressed their interest in the Belgian.
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) lost a minute to his general classification rivals on stage 16, with the Dane now in 8th overall, 7:22 in arrears to race leader Chris Froome (Sky).
"I went the wrong way round a roundabout," Fuglsang told TV2. "I followed Cadel Evans and it turned out to be the long way around and I dropped back 100 places in the field. Then I try rectifying that in the beginning of the climb and moved forward to the front again. So I was under a little pressure already and then Katusha started to attack. I was lacking what I needed to go with them."
More to come from Meyer?
Cameron Meyer was one of the several riders from the Orica GreenEdge team spotted warming up in order to better their chances to get in the stage 16 breakaway, and he would be joined by teammate Michael Albasini.
While according to sports director Matt White, the Swiss was still recovering from his runner-up performance on Saturday's stage 14, Meyer "had good legs." The 25-year-old Australian riding his first Tour de France, lost contact on the Col de Manse but was able to recover to finish in 9th place in what was his best result in a road stage in a grand tour. Meyer has had several top 10 performances in individual time trials.
"I got a bit of a monkey off my back, I've been trying for a couple of days now to get in the breakaway. I finally did it today," Meyer said on Backstage Pass. "I'm really happy. I think I might have scraped into a top-10 which is an unbelievable experience in my first Tour."
He said he would attempt a breakaway again in the remaining stages in the Alps.
Pinot's season may be over
Thibaut Pinot finally quit the Tour de France before Tuesday's stage to Gap and headed home tired, sick and mentally empty. However even his journey home was difficult and his season could be over if suspicions of mononucleosis are confirmed.
Pinot's parents were on holiday, heading to Alpe d'Huez to hopefully see him in the race. That meant he was forced to hire a car and drive 540km alone, thinking about his suffering during the Tour.
The FDJ.fr rider had a nightmare Tour de France. He finished tenth and won a stage in 2012, elevating him to the status of 'next great thing' in France. However his fear of descending meant he lost time in the Pyrenees and his race went downhill from there. He became ill with a throat infection in the second week and even a course of antibiotics did not help.He published a close-up photo of his infected throat on Twitter.
"The antibiotics didn’t have real affect and so there's a strong possibility that it's mononucleosis," Pinot told Equipe.
"If it's mononucleosis, then my season is over. If not, I could be at the Vuelta. For now I just don’t know."