Jakob Fuglsang's role at the Tour de France became ever more important after his Saxo Bank teammate Fränk Schleck abandoned the race yesterday with a broken collarbone. The Danish climbing prodigy had been designated to be the final helper in the mountains for both Fränk and younger brother Andy, but with just Andy left in the race, Fuglsang's ability to last the course in the mountains could determine the remaining Schleck's chances.
"I'm still going to try and be there as long as I can and help Andy," he told Cyclingnews at the finish of stage 4 in Reims.
"Maybe we'd have had different tactics if Fränk was in the race, but in the end we have what we have and I think we have a really good card in Andy. I still believe we can win this Tour."
Fuglsang won't be Andy Schleck's only support. Chris Anker Sørensen is a domestique deluxe and along with winning stage 8 in the Giro d'Italia, he helped Richie Porte claim a top-ten overall finish.
"We'll see who is going the best in the mountains. Maybe Chris and I will have to share the work a bit, but we'll both have to work hard. We have to give everything to stay up there and help Andy."
Fuglsang's Tour de France debut has already been solid enough. He was part of the Saxo Bank train that derailed so many overall contenders in yesterday's cobbled stage to Arenberg with a superb team performance. However, it hasn't been a totally rosy affair. A clash with Robbie Hunter (Garmin-Transitions) in yesterday's stage saw both riders take swings at each other.
"He came on the inside where there was almost no space and I shouted at him because it was the fifteenth time in the last three days that he's jumped in a small gap where there wasn't that much space for him," Fuglsang told Cyclingnews.
"It was just before the cobbles when it was pretty stressful. I was trying to stay behind Andy and do my job and he came and pushed me. I shouted and he went off hard on me and in the end he hit me.
"Maybe I clapped him on the side when he passed me. I said if you hit me again maybe I'll [expletive] hit you back. I didn't hit him hard."
At the end of stage 4 Hunter was quick to play down the clash, adding that he'd smoothed things over during today's stage.
"He hit me in the ribs and I turned around and hit him back," said Hunter. "He hit me first and I hit him back. It's not like we got off our bikes and had a boxing match. It was frustration in a very stressful day. Life goes on. We're friends. We spoke today and we're all good."