By Shane Stokes in Verbier
Team High Road have had a good week, to say the least. Several days ago it was announced that the Columbia Sportswear Company had signed on for three years as the title sponsor, and then on Thursday Kim Kirchen won the sixth stage of the Tour de Suisse and took over as race leader.
The Luxembourg rider will start stage seven with a lead of 27 seconds over Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas), while the overnight race leader Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is a further six seconds back in third.
Friday's and Sunday's stages could possibly end in bunch finishes, and so if Kirchen can pull out a good ride in Saturday's 25-kilometre mountain time trial, he could win the race overall.
Directeur sportif Brian Holm was consequently happy at the finish. "It was a good day for the team," he said. "Of course it was a bit complicated when the group went away. We had to consider what we should do, if we should let them stay at eight or nine minutes and just ride for the GC. Eventually we started chasing, helping Euskaltel with Vincente Reynes and Boasson Hagen. When the gap went down to five minutes we actually stopped riding.
"We saw quite easily what was happening, once the television coverage was on. We could see Jens Voigt stop riding in the front...anyone could see what would happen, that he would wait for Schleck who would attack on the climb. So we stopped riding.
"We saw that CSC tried to close the gap in the last ten kilometres, and they managed that. We then just crossed our fingers and hoped that Kim or Thomas had the legs for the final. Luckily he did. We weren't sure before he crossed the line because Klöden looked pretty strong as well."
The final climb up to the finish in Verbier was a very interesting one, with Philip Deignan (AG2R La Mondiale) and Mathias Frank (Gerolsteiner) pushing onwards from a long-distance breakaway group and try to get the stage victory. They were ultimately mopped up with approximately four kilometres to go, after which a number of favourites launched attacks. These included Fränk Schleck (CSC) and Stijn Devolder (Quick Step), the latter staying away until inside the final kilometre.
Holm was asked if this two-man move made things nervous for him, giving that Schleck and Devolder's attack looked initially to be a good one.
"Honestly, from the start of the climb to the top was pretty nervous for us," he said, playing down the notion that it was only Schleck and Devolder who worried him. "We weren't sure how Fränk was feeling. Of course, we were hoping he could drop Anton but I never dreamt about the stage win before he was past the line.
"He has about 25 seconds now. Tomorrow will be a typical flat stage, a group will get five or six minutes and we will see what the sprinters' teams will do. I think he'll do a good mountain time trial on Saturday.
"That said, I have the feeling that the others will go well too, so we are not running around with our arms in the air yet. We will keep the feet on the ground, there are hard days to come for sure. But we are happy with the win today, as things looked a bit complicated on the climb."