By Hedwig Kröner in Gap
Not only has the captain's role at T-Mobile been decided on since the Pyrenees, the new leader himself is standing firm on assuming his responsibilities. On the Tour de France's second rest day in Gap, Andreas Klöden confirmed that his team would support him all the way, and that he had now reached the peak of his form for the upcoming decisive stages in the Alps.
"I will continue to fight for the Tour de France victory," the lean climber said in the team's press conference. "The team has grown to be very united - who knows what it was good for to have only seven riders at the start?" The now seventh-placed Klöden wants to give it everything in the next few stages to make up for the time he lost on the last climb of the Pyrenees, the Pla-de-Beret.
"On the last kilometres if that climb, I cramped, which cost me a few minutes," he continued. "That was the first hard mountain for me since I had to abandon the Tour last year in stage 16. My muscles weren't completely ready for it." Klöden only had 10 weeks to prepare for the Tour de France because of a shoulder fracture.
But now, the 32 year-old believes he has fully recovered his strength, which in 2004 brought him the second place behind Lance Armstrong on the final general classification. "My form is at 100 percent now," Klöden said. "I'm sure that the ground stone for the Tour de France victory will be laid on Tuesday in L'Alpe d'Huez. I don't think Pereiro will be able to defend the jersey there. My candidates for the overall win are Landis, Menchov, Evans and Sastre.
"We want to attack again, also after L'Alpe d'Huez, but not too soon. Alpe d'Huez is a good omen for me, as I finished third there on the time trial in 2004, and later I got second on GC. That mountain is some motivation for me."