A turbulent month or so for RadioShack-Nissan is promising to finish with at least some form of compensation – after 17 stages the outfit from Luxembourg are in first place at the top of the team standings at the 2012 Tour de France and are desperate to hold on to that spot over the final three days of racing.
A troubled season hit a new low for the team earlier this week with the news that testers had made an adverse analytical finding in the urine sample of Frank Schleck. The man from Luxembourg, who finished in third place in last year’s Tour, immediately pulled out of this year’s race and has vowed to prove his innocence, but it was another blow for the team.
RadioShack has endured disappointing results over the season as a whole and were also rocked by USADA’s charges brought against sporting director Johan Bruyneel last month.
As they look to consolidate their position at the top of the standings, the team will be handicapped on Saturday’s penultimate stage by the loss of star time triallist Fabian Cancellara, who won the opening prologue but left the Tour a few days later to be present for the birth of his second child. But team success has become a priority for all their riders, including Chris Horner.
Horner was the best-placed RadioShack rider in Thursday’s gruelling Pyrenean mountain stage from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Peyragudes. The veteran American finished in ninth place behind stage winner Alejandro Valverde, Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins (both Sky), and he told the official team website that he was satisfied with the result and was ever mindful of keeping something in the tank in order to safeguard his team’s position in the final push to Paris on Sunday.
“I just didn’t have the desire to kill myself in the last few kilometres today,” he said. “It wouldn’t have helped my GC position so it was better for me to do my own tempo, protect our team classification and not blow up. I was at 375 and 400 watts but I would have needed to go 450 to catch those guys.
“I had many good stages this Tour and today I had a good result from those efforts. My role in the early part of this Tour was to go in breaks and cover some finishes, so my overall results don’t reflect the way I’ve ridden this Tour, but that was my job and I like to think I did it well.”