Team Sky leader eight seconds from lead as race hits mountains
Stage 8 marks the first real test for those with ambitions for the general classification as the Tour de France is set for the summit finish at Ax 3 Domaines. In this video Sky Procycling captain Chris Froome discusses the previous day's stage - won by Peter Sagan (Cannondale) - and says he is looking forward to the race finally hitting the mountains.
"This is what we've trained for, this is what we're ready for now and now I'm looking forward to putting it to some good use," Froome told reporters at the end of Stage 7 - won by Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Froome, along with his Australian teammate and final podium contender Richie Porte, sit in seventh and eighth-place respectively and lie a mere eight seconds from capturing the overall lead - currently held by Daryl Impey (Orica GreenEdge).
Today's stage will likely be the first time Froome's squad come to take proper control of the proceedings and suggests that while the team is known for a particular style of racing, they will be ready to switch up the tactics depending on how things unfold out on the road.
"We've got a pretty well established style of racing already and I don't see us doing anything differently. Obviously in the heat of the race you've got to be able to make those calls in the last few kilometres and I'm sure it's going to come down to that tomorrow."
Yesterday the Manxman was livid after crashing in the finale, being forced to change to his spare bike and sprinting from behind his rivals. During Friday's long stage to Albi he and his teammates tried to catch the front group that included Sagan but eventually threw in the towel.
Cavendish finished in the 90-rider front group, 14:53 behind Sagan. He remains third in the points classification, but is 105 points behind the Cannondale sprinter, who has already racked up a total of 224 points with his victory in Albi and a series of excellent placings.
Cavendish spoke briefly after getting changed on the team bus.
"I wasn’t the only one dropped on that mid-stage climb, there were about 80 others and there’s still plenty of sprints left before the Champs Élysées," he told French television.
He later tweeted: "Well, one of the "maybe a sprint" days definitely wasn't!! Finished with about 80 riders after @opqscyclingteam did some gutsy chasing."
Stybar visits the Tour, Mollema ready for Pyrenean test
Rolland loses his dots, Voeckler hit by heat
It was a day of mixed emotions for Europcar who received a double-blow at the end of Stage 7 to Albi after 205km racing. Despite Cyril Gautier infiltrating the breakaway and holding on until the final kilometers it was the team's captains that lost out. Pierre Rolland fell short of retaining his lead in the KoM classification by a single point while Thomas Voeckler's perhaps lax approach to bunch position saw him cross the finish line with the main group of sprinters – more than 15 minutes down on stage winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
The team may not have intended on defending Rolland's lead in the polka-dot competition but he still showed his intention by contesting the second climb of the day, the Col de la Croix de Mounis but was beaten to the line by the new mountains leader on the road Blel Kadri's (Ag2r La Mondiale) teammate Romain Bardet. Rolland will start the first proper mountain stage to Ax 3 Domaines with one point separating him from Kadri.
"We said we would not contest the polka dot jersey today. Although Pierre will be monitored, he will be less identifiable with a Europcar jersey," said directeur sportif Andy Flickinger on the Europcar team site.
For Voeckler, his often familiar spot at the back of the bunch may have contributed to his huge time loss. Always looking for an opportunity to attack however, the Frenchman was putting a positive spin on his fall down the GC rankings.
"It was a difficult day for me," said Voeckler on his personal Facebook...
Those examinations showed “a partial crack of the posterior cruciate ligament, a partial crack of the medial ligament, an injury of the cartilage, a bone bruise and a bruise of the patella tendon was concluded. Apart from that also blood was drawn two times out of the knee,” the team said on its website.
He will require surgery for the cartilage damage, but that can't take place until next week. He still has open wounds and abrasions on the which could lead to an infection, and he seems certain to miss the Vuelta a Espana.
“You train all year and then in one minute, one second, everything is over,” he said, according to Het Laatste Nieuws.
The goal for the BMC Racing Team during the first week of the Tour de France was primarily to protect their general classification contenders Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen plus have the team remain healthy and in advance of the first day in the Pyrenees team manager Jim Ochowicz was satisfied with the opening stages.
Evans and van Garderen are in 22nd and 24th overall, 31 seconds behind race leader Daryl Impey, and 23 seconds in arrears of the highest-placed GC threat, Chris Froome (Sky). The deficit is due to their 9th place team time trial result, what Ochowicz called the week's "only downside".
"It's hard to measure but there's no one particular place where we lost a lot of time," Ochowicz told Cyclingnews.
While Ochowicz wouldn't speculate on how BMC's team leadership would play out between Evans and van Garderen, he believes Evans is recovered from the Giro d'Italia and has fitness on par with 2010, when he also did the Giro/Tour double.
"He's fine, healthy," Ochowicz said of Evans. "I think he's recovered from the Giro. I think he's only going to get better from here."
Cycling's transfer merry-go-round is already in full swing at this year's Tour de France with rider agents an almost daily presence at the start villages each morning. Although contracts can not be announced until the start of August, Marc Sergeant, the team boss of Lotto Belisol, is already trawling the market in search of riders.
The Belgian team is already on the lookout for reinforcements for the new season, and with a number of teams having uncertain futures due to sponsorship concerns, Sergeant is well aware that team managers hold the cards when it comes to negotiations in the market.
"The store is full, you can go shopping but at this point we can't afford to reach that high," he told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 8.
"Someone has already asked me if I'd like Gilbert back. If we had the money, the answer would be yes, but maybe he'd come for less. Anyway he has one more year still at BMC."
In reality Lotto has looked to keep their stars rather than compete with the bigger budget teams. Andre Greipel signed a contract extension recently, although Sergeant added that the squad is on the lookout for depth in their roster.
"Up to now we've been trying to keep our best guys. Now we're waiting a little bit and seeing what happens. We don't have the budget of the guys like Sky so we have to be careful," he said.
"Lets say we're after a bit of everything. So here at the Tour we have a good team but you see that with Van den Broeck being out we're now in difficulty and we have to put everything on Andre for the sprints."
"If you have another climber, maybe another rider for the Classics like Flanders,...
Andrew Talansky came through the first mountain stage of the Tour de France relatively unscathed, finishing in a group containing Michael Rogers, Jakob Fuglsang and Garmin-Sharp teammate Daniel Martin. The American rode alongside Martin on the slopes of the final climb to Ax 3 Domaines, as up ahead Team Sky annihilated the opposition. Talansky now sits 12th in the overall standings, 2:48 down on race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky).
"It was exactly what I expected to happen with Sky taking over, riding tempo and their race. You just have to hang on," Talansky said as he warmed down alongside Martin at the summit.
"It's a good boost for my confidence. It's the first mountain stage, people are still fresh and I'd imagine that I'd get less fatigued than other guys in the third week. It's just a matter of getting through one more day here in the Pyrenees and then going onto the Alps."
Talansky came into the race with somewhat broad ambitions. First and foremost the 24-year-old set his sights on reaching Paris but as the race left the cauldron of Corsica and teased towards the Pyrenees, a tilt at the white jersey became a possibility. Talansky now lies second in that competition, 46 seconds down on Movistar's Nairo Quintana, who attacked on the Port de Pailhères and finished alongside Alberto Contador.
"I'm not with the top five guys right here, right now but I am kicking around in the front group and I can hang on. Mentally knowing that is helpful," Talansky said, almost somewhat relieved.
Garmin came into the race with a number of possible top ten contenders. Ryder Hesjedal slipped from contention after he broke a rib on stage one. Talansky found himself alongside teammate Daniel Martin on the last climb and when the...