In contrast to Marcel Kittel's sole day in the yellow jersey, his successor in leading the Tour de France, Jan Bakelants will wear the maillot jaune at least two days. RadioShack-Leopard sports director Alain Gallopin emphasized how important that was, not only for Bakelants but also for the team's overall race contenders.
"Having the yellow jersey after stage 3 means you're the last team to start the team time trial on Tuesday and that is undoubtedly a nice thing," Gallopin said. When the French sport director talks about Bakelants, it is clear the Belgian is not the most common rider in the peloton. "I'm surprised by his win but not by the man. He's a great rider. There's no doubt about that. He's difficult to channel. The last two months I worked a lot with him. He's hard to coach. He's stubborn."
That stubborn Belgian was expected by some to become a maillot jaune d'un jour, a leader for one day. After a beautiful passage along the brutal west coast of Corsica from Ajaccio to Calvi, Bakelants proved that he's more than just a lucky winner. The Belgian rider survived with the best riders in the small peloton that reached the finish line first, despite several difficult climbs en route.
Just before heading back to mainland France, Bakelants looked back on his glory days in Corsica. The likeable Belgian clearly enjoyed his day in yellow.
"All the riders were really friendly with me. It was nice. I felt a lot of appreciation. The best moment was when I crossed the finish line yesterday. Today I thought about it again. Today I was in the bunch that was yesterday behind me. I now I see how strong I was yesterday to pull off this thing. Today again there were four riders out there and we caught them back pretty easy. It was in fact completely the same situation. Today I felt how hard the bunch goes. I'm even more amazed about what I did yesterday."
Team time trial turns focus to leaders
On Tuesday the race hits the mainland of France where the battle for the yellow jersey will be contested in a team time trial in Nice. With only a single second on most of the other rivals, and being without the team's specialist Fabian Cancellara, it doesn't seem likely that Bakelants will sport the maillot jaune on Wednesday.
"It's going to be hard. There are teams with more specialists for these jobs. Probably I'll lose this jersey. It's going to be painful but I have to think of the nice moments and the nice 48 hours I had in it. Tomorrow I can start with the guys that worked so hard for me as the last team. And we're not last until we cross the finish line. I have a strong team. The three GC guys are going to give everything they have. The only thing we maybe miss compared to the other teams is the specialists. You know, they're all strong riders. We'll see."
When asked about his plans for the remainder of the Tour it was clear that the previous hectic hours had taken their toll. Nevertheless Bakelants had more ambitions left in la grande Boucle.
"The Tour is still long. This morning it felt like there was already a week of the Tour de France or more. We only did three stages. There are a lot of things to come. Probably tomorrow I'll lose the jersey. Probably in the next stages I will lose some time. Then there will come some opportunities maybe to go in the breakaway."
Before the start of the stage Bakelants informed Cyclingnews about the other stage he is focused on. "Now that I've won a stage I can say which stage I originally had in mind. It's the stage to Albi. It suits me and it's also the city where I won in the Tour de l'Avenir," Bakelants told Cyclingnews.
Besides his ambition for stage wins, the Radioshack-Nissan team also has aspirations in the general classification with Andy Schleck, Haimar Zubeldia and Andreas Klöden. When asked about the role of Schleck, Bakelants showed confidence while awaiting the Pyrenees to know more.
"Yesterday Andy gave me some good impressions. The Tour is still young and the real mountains still have to come. He's still there and if tomorrow we can do a good TTT then Andy has a good card to play in the Pyrenees. Then we'll have a good indication about how good he is. Andy is somebody who always goes better and better through a three-week race. Knowing that the hardest stages come at the end, I think we've not seen the last of Andy Schleck."