USA's Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream) finishes Tour de France stage six in Barcelona.
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Garmin's ace is sitting in the top ten at the first rest day in a race which has defied all predictions. With two stages being raced under a radio ban, is the American worried?
Cyclingnews: Hello Christian. Come in Christian. Can you hear me?
Christian Vande Velde: Yeah, you're sitting in front of me.
CN: I'm sorry. I'm just testing out the no-radio policy at the Tour. Are you worried about it?
CVV: [laughing] No not at all. Our radios haven't been working all week. We've got plenty of practice.
CN: Do you think there might be a rider strike in the next few days?
CVV: I would hope there's no strike. That would be stupid. I don't want to stand in a line looking like an idiot. It's embarrassing actually.
CN: So, the last time we caught up you were on your way to Switzerland for the Tour de Suisse. Since then you've got through that experience and now you're in the top ten at the Tour de France on the first rest day. Happy with that?
CVV: Oh, yeah of course. Wind it back a bit and Suisse was great for me. I think I remember telling you last month that I couldn't even ride up my steep driveway a few months ago, so to be here is a great feeling. Suisse was a gamble, with 1,500 kilometres in nine days at a very intense pace. I never would have had that opportunity if I were training at home. So it was chance and I took it and so far, so good.
CN: You seem more relaxed sitting here now than last year. Is that the new Christian Vande Velde?
CVV: I think so. In some ways I'm reliving last year's Tour de France. I was a relative unknown last year in the GC and it's pretty much the same again. But I'm getting my confidence back and I'm becoming more relaxed in the mountains. I've got a bit more reassurance that I'll be there in the final week.
CN: You've got the second week to get out of the way first though. How do you see that playing out?
CVV: There are going to be some more changes in the overall. Maybe not in the next three days but they're still going to be very hard stages. There's not a flat road anywhere around here and the stage to Verbier isn't an easy climb at all. But the biggest thing that's a factor is the level of stress. All these things are just building to a incredibly hard week with mountain top finishes and climb after climb.
Then there's the pancake-flat time trial which will be great for the specialists. The climbers might pay a price for that day, and then there's Ventoux.
CN: So you think it's going to come down to the last week?
CVV: I have no clue what it's going to be like in the third week. I never knew there would be cross winds producing time gaps with only one GC rider profiting. I mean, who knew that a sprint finish would follow the Tourmalet or that a headwind on Arcalis would stop people attacking until the last few kilometres.
CN: Sounds like making predictions is a hard work.
CVV: I've quit making predictions. It's a very atypical tour.
CN: Moving on, a lot of the media have been talking about your teammate Bradley Wiggins and how surprising it's been to see him in the mountains and lying so high up overall. What's your take on that?
CVV: It's funny because he's reliving some of the things that I went through last year, with people doubting him and asking ‘what's he doing hanging with the leads?' but he's not just hanging onto them – he's better than most of them.
CN: Some teams seem overloaded with riders at the front whereas last year Garmin had you. Now there's you and Brad. Does that help or detract from your ambitions?
CVV: It help me immensely. Maybe he doesn't help me with bottles or drag me up the hills but looking across the leaders and seeing someone with the same jersey as you makes you relax a little bit more. You can have chat at the top of the mountain and ask ‘how was that?' or ‘how are you feeling?' It makes a big difference. You relax. It goes a long way. He's an ally on the climbs when it can be a very hard and lonely place.
CN: How far can he go in this race?
CVV: It's possible that he could be on the podium. I don't know what he could do and neither does he. We're both unpredictable riders in this year's race, but I think he can last the pace. I don't know why people think he can't. They need to ask themselves ‘are you an Olympic champion, are you a world record holder?' - that's right, I didn't think so.
CN: And your own ambitions for the rest of the race…
CVV: Like I said. I never would have expected to be here right now when the race started back in Monaco, but am - so the podium is attainable. Yeah, I can finish on the podium.
CN: Thanks for catching up again. Roger, roger. Copy that?
CVV: [Laughing] Roger, thanks.
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