By Gregor Brown in Tignes
Iván Gutiérrez of Caisse d'Epargne has helped his team leaders through the Tour de France's first set of mountain stages. The 28 year-old Spaniard played his part in stage eight to Le Grande-Bornand and then returned in stage nine to make sure teammates Valverde and Pereiro were well taken care of the next day to Tignes.
The relaxed Caisse d'Epargne rider explained that he is taking the Grand Tour day by day. "I feel calm. I think that Saturday I attacked too soon on the last climb and I made a mistake," the 2007 Tour Méditerranéen winner noted to Cyclingnews. Gutiérrez launched his artilleries on the Colombière pass but it was too soon and it allowed time for Gerdemann and De La Fuente to respond.
"It will be tranquil. I will fight for the classification," Gutiérrez explained his Tour plans. "I am here to work for the team and for us it is important that the team doesn't work too much through Alps. We remain calm because we are good."
The team had three leaders heading into the Tour de France with Alejandro Valverde, Vladimir Karpets and Oscar Pereiro but after Sunday's run it looks like the two Spaniards will lead the Caisse's push for the podium in Paris. Gutiérrez has his freedom but underlined the solid group dynamics.
"I am able to go in the escape because it is better to be up front than in the gruppo. It is not only me but also my teammates that will try for the escapes. It is not easy because everyone in the world wants to go into the escape. Never say never, maybe the escape could arrive [successfully]. If there are important men in the escape and it goes well then it can arrive at the end of the stage.
"Valverde and Karpets are going well, but also Pereiro. Everyone is convinced in their capabilities. We will work together over the coming stages and then in the Pyrénées. They are all very strong.
"I am taking it day by day, the Tour is very long. Everyday the Tour can change. The stage that goes through Spain [stage 16 to Gourette-Col d'Aubisque] will be very, very dangerous. But really, I am thinking day by day. We are not alone and we have to watch how the others are going. So we have to not only consider ourselves but how we are going against the others." Is Alexander Vinokourov at 5'23" still a threat? "He is not dead and he has a lot of life in him."
The heat that makes the Tour de France has arrived but Gutiérrez would rather it stayed cool as it was in the first few days. "I like the hot days but not the extremely hot days like now." A day of rest at altitude could cool him. "I think I may get to see my family when the Tour hits the Pyrénées but now I will enjoy the rest day [with the team]. I enjoy laughing and listening to music when we are racing during the Tour. I like to relax. I like rock and pop.
"The Spaniards are very similar and in the team we have the same gusta," he said when questioned about his selection in music. "In the bus, we usually have music that everyone enjoys to create a good team environment."